Grayson: Oh great, YOU'RE back! Leeds boss awaiting return of Arsenal great Henry for third round clash
Kick start: Thierry Henry prepares for
his Arsenal comeback
Leeds United boss Simon Grayson will look forward to shaking Thierry Henry’s hand should the Arsenal legend make his return against the Yorkshire club on Monday night.
‘I played against him a few times,’ said Grayson, a former Blackburn Rovers and Aston Villa defender. ‘I probably saw more of the No 14 on his back than the front of him.’
It will be the No 12 this time around, nearly five years after Henry last
played in the red and white of Arsenal.
The intervening period has mellowed
that oncelethal pace, but the Frenchman’s thrill factor remains the same
as he rejoins the club he loves on loan from the New York Red Bulls.
got to be one of the best players to have played in the Premier
League,’ added Grayson. ‘His goalscoring record is fantastic, and he can create
things out of nothing. Obviously he’s in the latter stages of his
career now, but he is a legend and it’ll be a privilege for our players
to come up against him.
‘Arsenal have a fantastic squad, but it would be nice if Thierry Henry could play. We are not expecting him to be the player of before but he will be a major threat if he plays against us.’
Henry, 34, certainly enjoys an enviable record against Leeds, having scored nine goals in his last five matches against them — including four in a 5-0 rout back in April 2004.
Pointing the way to a return: Henry watches Arsenal's recent match against QPR
His manager, Arsene Wenger, sees the FA Cup as a ‘bonus’ alongside the
‘compulsory’ demands of progression in the Champions League — but the third-round tie has suddenly become loaded with importance.
Arsenal need to respond to the
Barclays Premier League defeat by Fulham a week ago and they must do it
without the player Henry has called the ‘main man’, leading goalscorer
Robin van Persie.
The Holland star is on a family break in Dubai and Arsenal must show they can cope without him.
Fan-tastic: Arsenal supporters will be delighted to welcome back Thierry Henry
The Gunners needed a last-minute penalty from Cesc Fabregas to snatch a 1-1 draw against Leeds at the same stage of the FA Cup 12 months ago.
They won at Elland Road, but Wenger said: ‘We have the experience of last year when we couldn’t beat them at home, so let’s hope we can do it this year.
'We just lost a game in the league which gave us a lot of regrets, so we want to respond quickly with a win.
'We have a good opportunity because we play at home. I will play a strong side, a normal side, although Robin van Persie will certainly be rested.'
Leeds boss: Grayson takes his team to Arsenal for a third round FA Cup tie
Leeds goalkeeper Andy Lonergan is the man with the task of denying Henry a dream return to north London.
The 28-year-old said: 'I’ve never played against them before and I’ve never been to the Emirates. I only went to Highbury once when I was younger.
'I see goals going in in the Premier League and I feel sorry for the keepers because the level of finishing is unbelievable.
'Every league you go down, the difference is always the centre-forwards. The quality in front of goal gets better the higher you go and this is a Champions League team we’re playing against tonight. They’ll be very clinical.’
And all eyes will be on Thierry Henry.