MONTREAL — Thierry Henry went back to where his playing career started with his first coaching job at AS Monaco. For his second job on the sideline, Henry is coming back to Major League Soccer, where his playing career ended.
The 1998 World Cup champion was introduced as Montreal Impact head coach on Monday morning. He revealed that his love story with the city dates back to 2011. Henry, who then played for the New York Red Bulls visited Stade Saputo for a friendly match against the pre-MLS era Impact.
After the Impact joined MLS, Henry returned to play league games and fell in love with a city he described as “the perfect bridge” between Europe and North America.
“It’s diverse, people come from everywhere but first and foremost, they’re from Montreal and they are Quebecois, ” Henry said Monday. “That’s what I felt since 2011 every time I came here.
“This city is just outstanding. The food, outstanding. The people, it’s just crazy because in France sometimes we’re a bit moody but you guys aren’t over here, so it’s nice to see.”
The Impact announced Henry’s appointment on social media on Thursday. Since then, phones at the club offices have been ringing for season ticket applications.
“We ring a bell every time we sell a season ticket,” Gilmore said. “And the bell rings quite often since the announcement.”
Henry reached out to the Impact
Henry and his representatives reached out to sporting director Olivier Renard to offer his coaching services to the Impact. Renard, along with club president and chief executive officer Kevin Gilmore, met with Henry in London and moved forward with an interview. The new head coach was the only candidate interviewed by the club.
“A lot of people reached out to present their clients. There were also a lot of people that I knew and didn’t need to interview from either Belgium or Italy,” Renard said. “We had our first contacts [with Henry] around mid-October, and we felt that this relationship would work out.”
Renard said Henry shared his philosophy for building a squad and an instituting attacking style of play. The Belgian added that he was impressed with the time Henry took to earn his coaching diplomas. Henry began his coaching career with youth players at the Arsenal academy and wants him to continue to work with young players.
“I think it was easy enough for me to see that he was an ideal candidate,” Renard said. “Everything else [with his playing career] is a bonus. It wasn’t what made me take the decision.”
Learning from AS Monaco
Henry spent only three months as a rookie coach at Ligue 1 club AS Monaco. After a tumultuous campaign in the principality, Henry was sacked in January, 2019.
“For me, the way I put it is always you win or you learn, and I learned a lot there,” Henry said.
The Frenchman is adamant that he took lessons from his first head coaching experience. Apart from the love of Montreal, Henry was interested in coaching again because of love for soccer.
“It’s an evolution, it’s a long road, but what makes me come back is because of my passion. It’s my life,” Henry said. “It’s a new start and we need to move forward and build. You don’t build a legacy in two, three months, or even a year.
“We’ll need to work hard and be patient with a certain identity and philosophy. We’ll also need to bring the community with us. The supporters also need to see themselves in this club and that the club represents the city and the community.”
No staff yet
Henry did not want to share who would join his staff for the 2020 season. However, he said there will be new arrivals on the Impact bench. He offered praise for two former assistants, Patrice Bernier and Wilfried Nancy.
“Pat, he’s the child of the club. I’ve met him at the All-Star Game, he might have came in late a few times but that’s OK,” Henry joked. “He was a very intelligent player that sees the game, that knows the league. He also knows the pressure for local players that are here sometimes because it’s not always easy to play at home.”
“Not only Pat but also Wil, who has been there for a while. He knows academy players, it’s really important to have people like that in the club.”