The Return of the King.

Eh Bobby, I still 'ave the va va voom!

As Arsene Wenger announces the loan signing of Thierry Henry, there have been mixed emotions from Arsenal fans: Some are delighted at the return of one of their greatest ever players. Others are concerned that the Frenchman may be a spent force and this could sully the memory of his successes with the club. I would say, with the scarcity of quality striking options beyond Robin van Persie, Arsenal need someone. Henry is by no means the first player to tread over old ground; Boner’s Brain looks at some who have gone back.

Juninho

A crestfallen Juninho leaves the field.

In 1995, the much sought-after Brazilian star signed for Middlesbrough who had just been promoted to the FA Premier League. Few could have predicted the impact the 22-year-old was to have. From playing football in the streets with local children to his eye-catching displays as an attacking midfielder, Juninho quickly became a legend on Teesside. His 12 goals in 57 appearances over 2 seasons were instrumental in Middlesbrough reaching the FA Cup Final and the League Cup final. Unfortunately, they lost both those games and ended the season relegated. The image of Juninho, broken-hearted on the pitch on the final day of the season became iconic in the North East.

The diminutive Brazilian left the club for Atletico Madrid, where he enjoyed some success, despite a broken leg sidelining him for 6 months. He was loaned back to Middlesbrough in 1999-2000, scoring four goals in 28 games, and then returned again in 2002, scoring 11 goals in 41 games. During this time, he helped the club to their first League Cup triumph. Although the midfielder was clearly a shadow of his former self, his hero status was secured: In 2007, he was voted Middlesbrough’s greatest ever player by the fans. Whilst he may not have scaled the heights of his first spell at the club, Juninho’s love for the Teessiders was reciprocated, and then some, by the fans.

Dean Windass.

You would be hard pushed to find a football fan with a bad word to say about Dean Windass. Something of a people’s champion, the Yorkshireman has hero status at both Hull City, and Bradford City, both where he enjoyed more than one spell.

Windass after scoring "the richest goal in football".

Windass started his professional career at his boyhood club Hull City, (having had spells as a labourer and packing frozen peas whilst playing for North Ferriby United.) He managed 64 goals in 205 games, before he left the club to ease their financial woes, signing for Aberdeen for a fee in the region of £700,000.

In 2007, he returned to Hull on loan and netted 8 goals in 18 games. An impressive return in itself, however one of those goals-the winner in a 1-0 victory over Cardiff, effectively saved Hull from relegation. His move was made permanent and over the next season Windass played his part in a wonderful season for the Tigers. He scored his 200th career goal in the Play-off Semi Final against Watford. He then topped that, scoring a volley to win the Play-off Final, sending Hull into the Premier League for the first time in their history. If he was considered a hero for his efforts the previous year, his star had rocketed now. Indeed, Windass was named in the top 5 of Hull’s greatest ever players.

He also holds the distinction of being a success in two spells at another club: Bradford City. His initial stint at the club saw them secure promotion to the Premier League. Windass finished as Bradford’s top scorer in their first season in the top flight, with 10 goals, helping them to avoid relegation with a last day victory over Liverpool. The arrival of Benito Carbone, amongst others, signalled the end of Deano’s days at Valley Parade, and he left for Middlesbrough. Interestingly, despite leaving for pastures anew, he still finished the 2001 season as the club’s top scorer.

He returned to Bradford in 2003, and despite the club’s poor fortunes on and off the field, he still managed to score 28 goals in the 2004-05 season, and another 20 the year after. Windass turned down the chance to join a host of other clubs, to stay with Bradford, hoping to cement his place as one of their all time greats. By the time he left for Hull (as detailed above) he had risen to being the third top goalscorer in Bradford’s history.

Not many can claim to have such a profound impact at more than one club, but Windass most definitely did.

Jurgen Klinsmann

Already an established and famous international, World Cup Winner Klinsmann joined Tottenham Hotspur in 1994. The

That famous goal celebration.

German star had scored goals at all his previous clubs, including a successful spell in what was then the most competitive league around, Serie A. His arrival in England was greeted with mixed emotions. Klinsmann had been part of the German side that had broken English hearts in the 1990 World Cup. He also had a less than exemplary reputation as something of a diver. The striker scored on his league debut and unveiled the now legendary goal celebration where he made fun of the diver jibes. Klinsmann’s good nature and humour as well as 21 goals in 41 appearances won the country round, and he was named the Football Writers’ Player of the Year at the end of the season. The chance to join the biggest club in his homeland came knocking and Klinsmann left Spurs to join Bayern Munich.

The charismatic striker returned to White Hart Lane in 1998. At the time, Spurs were having a terrible season and were even facing the prospect of relegation. Klinsmann netted 9 goals in 15 appearances as Spurs finished in 14th place, just 4 points ahead of relegated Bolton Wanderers. Klinsmann had come in and saved the club from the unthinkable. It was a pretty decent second spell, whatever Alan Sugar might say.

Ian Rush.

Between 1980 and 1987 Ian Rush enjoyed a hugely successful spell at Liverpool. Despite a slow start, he was young player of the year in 1983. He scored 139 goals in 224 appearances, including a season of 30 goals in 49 games in 1982. In 1984, Rush bettered this, scoring 47 goals in all competitions. He was named PFA and Football Writers’ Player of the Year in that same season. With his huge haul of medals and his phenomenal scoring record, Rush was a club legend in the making.

The lure of higher wages and the opportunity to test himself in European Competition (English clubs were still banned) the Welsh star departed to Italy’s Serie A with Juventus in 1987. Like many British players, Rush found it difficult to settle abroad. In a league renowned for its defensive strength Rush only scored 8 times in 29 games. Alongside his failure to adapt to the type of football in Italy, Rush also struggled to fit in around the dressing room and returned home to Liverpool.

Rush and John Barnes celebrate his FA Cup heroics.

Despite starting his first season back at the club behind John Aldridge in the pecking order, Rush was to end up a hero, scoring twice in the 3-2 win over Everton in the 1989 FA Cup Final. He scored 18 times in the 1989-90 season, as Liverpool secured their 18th, and to date, last league title. He also scored in another cup final in 1992, getting the 2nd in a 2-0 win over Sunderland.  Rush also won the League Cup in 1995. Over the coming months, the arrival of Stan Collymore and the emergence of Robbie Fowler meant that Rush left the Anfield club for Leeds on a free transfer. His second spell at the club had brought with it 90 goals in 245 games. He had won the league title, 2 FA Cups, the League Cup and finished top scorer in 4 of the 7 seasons of this period.  By anyone’s standards, that is hugely impressive.

So there you have it. Despite the mantra of “you should never go back” you would be hard pushed to find anyone who regrets the return of the above named players to their beloved clubs. It is true that many of these players were still to reach their peak upon their return, which is not something you can say about Thierry Henry. It is also true to say that not every return pans out like those above. However, like Juninho at Middlesbrough, Rush at Liverpool and of course Windass at Hull and Bradford, such was the popularity and legend status secured during the first spell, it is hard to see Henry sullying the fond memories the Arsenal fans have of him. Even a few goals, or any sort of positive influence on the players around him will see Henry’s status increased, if that is possible. And if not, watch this video and remember how fantastic he was the first time.

Long live the King!

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1 Comment

  1. Feel free to leave some memories of those players above, or players you remember fondly as returning to your club.


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