The Va Va Voom for Thierry Henry May Not Prove A Smooth Road For Wales

Thierry Henry. Photo by Sandra Ruhaut/Icon Sport via Getty Images)

The Va Va Voom for Thierry Henry May Not Prove A Smooth Road For Wales

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By Graham Thomas

Thierry Henry once flogged Renault Clios by talking about “va va voom”.

But now it’s Wales who want to add some glamour to a bog-standard banger with the suggestion they want him to manage a team stuck on the hard shoulder.

According to reports, the Frenchman is high on the wish list of the FAW to replace Rob Page, sacked last week, two friendlies on from when they insisted he was staying.

The fact that Page was dismissed without too much outcry points towards why Wales are interested in hiring Henry.

For all his strengths – and his place in history as the only Wales manager in half a century to take his team to the finals of the World Cup – few admirers would have called Page a sexy appointment, less still someone with va va voom.

Henry, on the other hand, still has enough charm and stardust for even the dullest FAW official to dream that some of that shiny French flair might deflect onto them and the organisation.

Henry – currently managing France’s U21 team – has entered the betting high enough to be third favourite to succeed Page at 9/1.

Craig Bellamy – who appears likely to be frustrated in his ambition to step up from assistant to fill the vacant manager’s position at Burnley – is the favourite for the Wales job at 8/11, with Osian Roberts second favourite at 6/4.

The dream of enticing Henry – who was set sail on his coaching career by taking his badges in Wales under the guidance of Roberts – is driven by the same desire that led to the appointment of Ryan Giggs.

Bring in a big name and your small nation suddenly has a louder voice on the world stage and a brighter personality.

But does it make any difference to results on the field and the chances of Wales gaining qualification for the 2026 World Cup?

The debate between “big name” versus “solid managerial record” is a regular bone of contention for most nations.

Giggs certainly gave Wales a worldwide recognition factor as a Manchester United legend and he also guided Wales to the 2020 Euro finals.

But it was the lower profile Chris Coleman – who had served time as a club manager, particularly with Fulham – who gave Wales arguably the greatest moments in their history when they reached the semi-finals of Euro 2016.

Mark Hughes – said to fancy another crack at the job he did with Wales 20 years ago – carried the high profile tag,when he was appointed in 1999.

There were some high points, but Hughes’ most noticeable legacy is the lowest win ratio – 27 per cent – of any Wales manager since 1974.

Hughes was only 36 years old when he became Wales manager and a rookie in a tracksuit.

Henry – one of both Arsenal and France’s greatest players – is 10 years older and has the touchline know-how of a spell as assistant to former Swansea City manager Roberto Martinez when he was in charge of Belgium.

But he has also had his managerial failures already, such as his forgettable few months at Monaco.

One man Henry impressed when they did their coaching badges together in Wales was former Cardiff City and Wales striker Robert Earnshaw.

“He knows (FAW technical director) David Adams and the set-up. He understands Welsh football,” says Earnshaw.

“The one thing that stood out when I was sat with Thierry was his football brain is brilliant. With France U21s and the Olympic team, he understands young players. He would raise the bar and the level. I don’t know whether he would want it.

“But I could see someone like Thierry doing it. His football brain is brilliant, he’s so sharp, advanced and has got great ideas.”

As Earnshaw suggests, the question is whether or not Henry would really be interested in managing Wales.

He is already working within the French set-up and may well see himself as a candidate to succeed current boss, Didier Deschamps.
If he feels he’s in the fast lane to promotion, then the va va voom vibe for coming to Cardiff may not be so strong.

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