One thing the New York Red Bulls have learned over the course of nearly three years is this: Thierry Henry doesn’t have an off switch. Whether on the pitch, in training or playing bingo with the boys, his focus is as singular as the word that drives him; winning.
Few saw that as intimately as former Red Bulls coach Hans Backe. He was there when Henry made his big move across the Atlantic and he was the one who guided the player and his team through two and a half seasons in North America.
Now a TV analyst on Swedish TV, Backe shared, amongst other stories, a training incident that typified his star striker’s drive with his new employer. In this instance, it was then assistant coach Goran Aral who drew the ire of the Frenchman thanks to a wrong call during practice.
“He lost his head because of an offside,” Backe recalled, “(in) a training game, seven against seven. He went totally bananas.”
Of course, the former New York boss didn’t blame his captain. “It is sometimes needed,” he said. “He is an incredible winner.”
Henry’s “win first” attitude has been the source of training ground legend. In his first full year with the team, a vicious tackle on then bench player Mike Jones caused the young defender to miss matches through the end of the season. Just last year, a chatty Amando Moreno was getting some experience in with the Red Bulls first side as a guest in training. Henry, perturbed by the chirpy youngster, decided to teach him a lesson with a vicious tackle, upending the Academy standout.
The tackle drew gasps all around – from the players to the gathered press.
Still, that is Henry in a nutshell; when it comes to winning, there simply is no time for distractions.
“I have never met such a perfectionist that goes into such detail when it comes to football,” Backe said. “If it’s about defense or offense. Still, at age 35, he is extremely passionate and thinks enough of football verging on around the clock.”
Here is Backe discussing the incident on Swedish TV4: