BEVERLY HILLS, April 28, (THEWILL) – On a momentous Monday for fans of football from the English Premier League, especially in the later years of the 20th century, it was especially fitting to be living witnesses to the formal induction of two former strikers of the era, former England striker Alan Shearer and ex-France forward Thierry Henry, into the Premier League Hall of Fame, as its first two inductees.
The legendary Shearer, who still stands tall as the Premier League’s record scorer, with 260 goals for Blackburn Rovers, with whom he won the title in 1995, and Newcastle United, was, like his co-inductee, both gifted with natural skill and talent, which still astounds those who watch clips of his genius today.
The English forward was the first player to reach 100 Premier League goals and he netted 112 in 138 league matches for Blackburn, and 148 for Newcastle, 303 in all.
For Henry, the Arsenal icon with a goal-scoring club record of 175 Premier League goals in 258 appearances for Arsenal, there was a series of season where he was everything impressive about the Gunners.
Henry was the league’s top scorer in a season a record four times, won the title twice and, most impressively, he was part of the Arsenal “Invincibles” side that went unbeaten in the league in the 2003-04 season. Henry also provided 74 assists during eight Premier League seasons, including a joint-record 20 in the 2002-03 campaign.
If the former Arsenal captain was not influential enough before, there are few who will argue against the reach of his influence now as the undisputed first of a fair of Hall of Famers in the highly-rated, prestigious and reputable English Premier League.
This is why THEWILL believes the Arsenal star may bring this influence to bear more strongly in resolving the potential crisis that is brewing in the anger-fuelled underbelly of the Emirates club, especially regarding the protests that have marked the fallout of Arsenal’s inclusion in the now-defunct European Super League (ESL).
It was coincidental that just as the news of Henry’s Hall of Fame induction was breaking, it was also making the headlines that the founder of Swedish audio streaming and media services provider Spotify, Daniel Ek, had joined forces with a trio of Arsenal legends of the Invincibles era, Patrick Vieira and Dennis Bergkamp and Henry to put together a formal offer to buy the Gunners from current owner Stan Kroenke, who has remained the target of protesting Arsenal fans.
The hope of Ek’s group was fairly straightforward. It was of the view that with the star power of Henry, Vieira and Bergkamp involved, their proposal stood the chance to be taken seriously and may force the hands of the reluctant Kroenke to their favour. This point gains extra significance with the induction that was granted Henry and cannot be underestimated how powerfully significant that is as leverage.
The proposal and involvement of the three Invincibles also served to open up the possibility of them returning to the Emirates to use their knowledge as part of a new-look boardroom, which will be a huge plus for the Gunners, given the wide-ranging slate of experience at the disposal of these former Arsenal pros. It cannot be overstated the import of having a Hall of Famer Board member.
Before any of these were even announced, Henry had been public about his criticism for the way the club was run and his words are deeply telling of his passion for Arsenal: “I love the club and I will support the club until I die, but I do not recognise my club and what happened just now, with them trying to join a league that would have been closed, makes no sense to me.
“They have been running the club like a company, not a football club, and they showed their hand. Maybe it’s a lack of understanding of the core football values and maybe the money was too big of a temptation. But whatever it was, they got it wrong. Badly wrong.”
He will have the opportunity to change things from the inside should his partnership with Ek and teammates Vieira and Bergkamp, get the traction they will need to force an obdurate Stan Kroenke to allow them buy his controlling stakes and take ownership of the club. It is possible that he can bring his hard power, as a Hall of Famer, to the soft power of the others and make it happen.
But, will Kroenke budge?