The Premiership Pele

Thierry Henry has already moved past Alan Shearer's Premiership season top-scoring record. If the Arsenal forward, who has been the most dominant individual force in the Premiership in the ongoing decade, becomes the top-scorer for two more seasons in the competition he will equal the ALL-TIME RECORD of six in English club football held by Jimmy Greaves during the 1950s and 1960s, writes N. U. ABILASH.

A few months ago, when Arsenal lost in the final of the Champions League to Barcelona, writer and feminist political activist Julie Bindel spelt out six reasons why she was happy at the result and why she loathed the Gunners. Reason Number Six goes thus: "If I hear one more mother, girlfriend or Arsenal admirer saying of a young black man of their acquaintance, `He looks just like Thierry Henry...'"

It is clear Bindel is frustrated with the proclivity of Arsenal fans to reduce the subjectivities and identities of all black men to that of one prototype, the man they know best. But, perhaps, if she takes a look at some of Thierry Henry's innumerable goals and assists over the last five seasons — Henry has emerged the top-scorer of the Premiership season a record four times since the competition was started in 1992-93; three times in succession from the 2003-04 season he has topped the charts and he narrowly missed being the top-scorer in the 2002-03 season — she might realise that it is not all that offensive for all people, white or non-white, to be compared to Thierry Henry for whatever reason it may be.

And then, on top of all the goals and assists, Bindel could have watched the King's Farewell to his Kingdom, a majestic performance in May, a few days before the Champions League final, that will be etched in collective memory forever. In May, against Wigan, Henry scored the last goal in the Highbury Stadium, appropriately a hat-trick goal and inappropriately a spot-kick considering that the French striker has often been referred to as not just the King of Highbury but also of open play. Henry sank to the ground and kissed the pitch. The clock tower stood tall over the Wigan goalpost, surveying the scene and recording it as history. The clock has hence been shifted to the new Emirates Stadium, where an all-time giant of English football will soon begin part two of his career with Arsenal.

At the GBP 400m Emirates Stadium, which has a capacity of 60,000, Henry, who turned 29 two days before the start of the Premiership season on August 19, will look to end his Premiership career in 2010. If the Frenchman, who is nearing 200 Arsenal goals in all competitions after having broken Ian Wright's record of 185 last season, becomes the Premiership's top-scorer in two more seasons, he will equal the all-time record of six held in English club football by Jimmy Greaves during the 1950s and 1960s.

Greaves' record, though, came for two clubs (Chelsea in 1959 and 1961; Tottenham in 1963,'64,'65 and '69). Henry has already moved past Alan Shearer's Premiership season top-scoring record which stood at three — a hat-trick which began in 1994-95 and 1995-96 for Blackburn Rovers and ended in 1996-97 for Newcastle — and the three top-scoring years of Gary Lineker just before the competition was renamed as the Premiership.

Henry, who now has 164 Premiership goals for Arsenal, could also move past Shearer's Premiership record of 260 goals by the time he finishes his current contract with the Gunners if he continues to be at the top of his game. Shearer's playing career for various clubs stretched between 1992 and 2006. Just imagine what Henry's tally will be if he lasts that long in the Premiership, a competition he entered in 1999-2000 as a winger, signed by his former manager at Monaco, Arsene Wenger, from Juventus for GBP 10m. The conversion of Henry from a winger to a centre forward alone will be enough to take Arsene Wenger to the pantheon of legendary club managers.

If you are bored with evaluating the brilliant Frenchman through the spectrum of figures, just place an order for the video of the all-conquering Manchester United's trip to Highbury in October 2000, when Henry scored one of his best Arsenal goals in the view of this writer. Henry received the ball with his back to the United goal, flicked it up, turned in one motion, volleyed, and beat French teammate Fabien Barthez in the United post 35 yards away.

The Frenchman's formative years as a winger have also enabled him to set up goals in dozens for Arsenal to add to the ones he scores. His 23 assists during the 2002-03 season is a Premiership record. In the two seasons just prior to the Roman Abramovich takeover of Chelsea (in the summer of 2003) and in the first season after the high watermark event of the competition, the individual talent of Thierry Henry dominated the Premiership though it must be said that the Frenchman has finished as top-scorer in the last two years when Jose Mourinho's Chelsea won successive titles.

With money flowing like water, or like oil as Henry's mentor Wenger once described it, from Stamford Bridge the dynamics have changed. The billions have brought two times Serie `A' top-scorer and all-time leading Champions League scorer Andriy Shevchenko to West London.

The Thierry Henry versus Andriy Shevchenko goal-scoring tussle is about to begin. The `Premiership Pele' has some hard work to do to catch up with Jimmy Greaves.