Concacaf Football - Henry finds ideal strike partner from unlikely place

Arsenal legend Thierry Henry may have found the perfect strike partner at New York Red Bulls, writes Jimmy Stone, though their stories couldn't be any more different.

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Concacaf Football - Henry finds ideal strike partner from unlikely place
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Thierry Henry and Bradley Wright-Phillips

On a bitterly cold night in Prague in October 2005, Thierry Henry cemented his place in Arsenal’s illustrious history.

Two typically well-taken goals at Stadion Letná, helped the Gunners to a 2-0 victory over Sparta Prague in the group stages of the Champions League, and Henry’s double, his 185th and 186th goals in an Arsenal shirt, meant he overtook Ian Wright as the club’s record goalscorer.

Two days later, Wright’s 20-year-old son Bradley scored as Manchester City’s reserve team beat Bury in the Manchester Senior Cup.

Despite showing promise the striker’s career was stuttering – hampered by a troublesome knee injury that he still carries today.

By the time Wright-Phillips had joined Plymouth Argyle in 2009, Henry had won every major trophy imaginable.

The World Cup and European Championship with France, the Premier League and FA Cup with Arsenal and La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League with Barcelona – you name it and Henry had won it.

A now 24-year-old Wright-Phillips was still awaiting his first piece of silverware.

Fast forward four years and Wright junior had earned himself a reputation as a prolific lower-league goalscorer.

Following a successful spell at Charlton Athletic, during which time the striker won his only league winners medal to date, the man Addicks fans labelled BWP left The Valley to join New York Red Bulls.

The most intriguing thing about Wright-Phillips’ arrival in Major League Soccer was whom he would be partnering upfront.

Eight years after eclipsing the Arsenal scoring record of Wright senior, Henry would start in attack with Wright junior for New York.

The fact that a two-time European Golden Boot winner would be playing alongside a man who has managed just a single Premier League start hardly raised an eyebrow in world football - such is the theatre of MLS.

Putting the once brilliant next to the comparatively ordinary has been one of the hallmarks of the league, and in the case of BWP and Henry the early signs are intriguing.

The former Charlton man claimed two assists in NYRB’s 4-1 victory at Houston Dynamo on Sunday, including a cushioned header back to his father’s long-term Arsenal replacement.

Red Bulls boss Mike Petke was impressed with the blossoming partnership.

“Bradley and Thierry definitely had a good understanding with each other,” he said.

“When one was going long, one was coming short. They were playing off each other nicely.

“But at the end of the day, for me, tonight for both Thierry and Bradley, the defensive part of their game is what really stuck out in my mind. Their willingness to be a part of it as a team was great.”

In truth the pair share more than just a goalscoring record in common.

Wright-Phillips’ agent, Darren Dein, was the best man at Henry’s wedding and had already managed to convince NYRB to take another one of his clients in young Spanish midfielder, Ruben Bover, from Charlton in February.

The striker told Charlton’s official website that he was enjoying his football:

“We were top of the table until recently, and we want to win the league,” he said

“I was a bit reluctant to go on trial at my age but I’m loving my time here out here and it’s a great place to be.”

Petke’s men sit in second place in the Eastern Conference, virtually guaranteed a play-off spot and only sit behind Marco Di Vaio and Alessandro Nesta’s Montreal Impact on goal difference.

Seen as perennial underachievers, the Wright-Phillips/Henry partnership could yet be key to the play-off hopes of Red Bulls as the MLS season reaches its final furlong.

Jimmy Stone | Follow on Twitter

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