MLS Insider Combine Diary: On returns to old haunts

Thierry Henry - Insider

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Remember when your Twitter timeline exploded in a hail of “Thierry Henry” this afternoon? I sure do and I probably won’t forget it anytime soon; I’m not an Arsenal fan but I can appreciate a good, sports fairy-tale moment, something for which Henry’s return to North London certainly qualifies.

As today was a matchless day in Ft. Lauderdale, more than a few members of the socceratti who have descended on South Florida this week took in Arsenal’s 1-0 FA Cup win over Leeds at Waxy O’Connor’s, a local pub.

Among those in attendance were New York Red Bulls assistants Mike Petke and Jan Halvorson. The duo were jovial but reserved for three-quarters of the match. Then Henry scored and Petke lept out of his seat as if he had scored for New York instead of a club on the other side of the Atlantic.

It was a moment of genuine excitement for a comrade. It was also a little strange.

“It’s weird watching him on TV in an Arsenal kit again,” offered Petke, “but it’s phenomenal for Thierry, you know? He comes on and scores the game-winner in his return, being the legend that he is there with a statue outside the stadium. It’s just phenomenal.”

Petke, who was a fan favorite as a New York player from 1998 to 2002 and again from 2008 to 2010, knows a little about returning to the site of former glory.

“Obviously what he’s doing is on a different scale, but it’s a great feeling,” said Petke. "Every player has their one club that they cherish and hold dear to them, and when I came back to New York, it was one of the best feelings in my life, so I can imagine what he’s feeling right now.”

Having never had a club to return to, I can’t imagine what Henry's feeling right now. If I had to guess though, it something close to “better than good."