Off the back of Andy Murray’s tears as he returned to winning ways in the European Open The Courier’s sports writers look at Andy, and others from sports history’s, emotional sporting returns.
Thierry Henry- Andrew White
Thierry Henry’s return to Arsenal in January 2012 filled Arsenal fans with both shock and excitement.
Henry was brought back to Arsenal on a two-month loan from parent club New York Red Bulls in the MLS; to cover for Gervinho who was leaving for the African Cup of Nations.
The excitement around North London was growing from the moment Henry had re-signed. The visitors for ‘the king’s’ homecoming? Leeds United in the FA Cup.
At 0-0 in the 68th minute- Thierry Henry was about to make his anticipated Arsenal return. What happened next, was FA Cup history. 77 minutes on the clock, Alex Song plays a delicious ball to the feet of ‘ the king’
“Henry. Chance. Goal!”
The Emirates stadium was in ruptures, goosebumps all around. Emotions ran high as Henry embraced the manager who brought him to Arsenal all those years ago.
Henry had previously scored 226 goals as an Arsenal player; this was the first goal he scored as an Arsenal fan. The talisman would later describe his goal against Leeds as his favourite in an Arsenal shirt. “You know, I wasn’t meant to come back and I came back. I wasn’t meant to play, I played. I wasn’t meant to score, I scored. It was so emotional, it was what it meant to me.”
In the king’s final goodbye, Henry would score a last minute winner for Arsenal against Sunderland, leaving his goal tally at 228 goals for Arsenal. The return of the king, the goodbye of a king, Henry’s return touched the hearts of football fans everywhere.
Michael Jordan- Dominic Lee
Two words. “I’m back”. These two words, addressed in a letter to the league in 1995 announced the return of the game’s greatest player after a two-year hiatus. But that’s not where the story of Air Jordan’s break from basketball begins.
It’s 1993, MJ’s Bulls have just defeated the Charles Barkley led Phoenix Suns to win their third championship in a row. Jordan was at the top of his game and looked like he had sole ownership of the Larry O’Brien trophy. However, everything changed when Jordan’s father died convincing the G.O.A.T. to hang up his sneakers and pick up a baseball bat to pursue his father’s dream of being a baseball player.
After a couple of years floating around Baseball’s minor leagues in the Chicago White Sox’ farm system, Jordan announced his return to the hardwood by penning an open letter to the league. The letter contained the words “I’m back” and the very same night Jordan played in the Bulls game at the Indiana Pacers- donning the number 45 he had worn in baseball rather than his usual 23.
That year the Bulls lost to Shaquille O’Neal’s Magic who went on to lose against the Houston Rockets in the Finals. Nonetheless, Jordan’s return still marked an incredible return in sporting history as after the 94/95 finals the Bulls went on another 3-peat completing the story of the greatest player in the league’s history.
Andy Murray- Toby Bryant
With a rise to tennis stardom shrouded by his grouchy behaviour and on the court antics, you’d have been forgiven for thinking you’d never feel emotional for Andy Murray.
In recent years however, the Scotsman has blubbed and blubbed his way into the nation’s hearts, even winning Sports Personality of the Year three times. Late last month, the now more charismatic shot maker, was making headlines after his tearful return to tennis success after time out with a niggling back injury.
The final of October’s Antwerp European Open was only Murray’s second final since major back surgery that had some questioning if he would ever play again. A comeback win against fellow injury-prone player Stan Warwinka and a first title in seven tournaments started the waterworks.
“It means a lot,” Murray said. “[The] last few years have been extremely difficult. Me and Stan have had a lot of injury problems in the last couple of years. Amazing to be back playing against him in a final like that.”
A Grand Slam challenge may still be a way in the distance, but Murray is certainly glad to be back among the titles.
Graham Alexander- Stanley Gilyead
Graham Alexander is a Preston North End legend. The long-time club captain helped PNE to the 1999/2000 League 1 title and played in two Championship play-off finals for the club, but he is perhaps most warmly remembered for scoring in an end of season damp squib as he made an emotional return to Deepdale for the final season of his career.
‘Grezza’, as he is known to the PNE faithful, signed for Preston in 1999 and was their regular right back for 8 years before being controversially sold to Burnley. There, he impressed in a new central midfield position and helped secure promotion to the Premier League in 2008/09.
Whilst Grezza enjoyed an impressive swansong to his career North End’s fortunes faltered and they were relegated to League 1 in 2011. Amidst the disappointment of that summer one positive shone through, the return of Grezza on a free transfer.
The 40-year-old struggled with injuries as the club limped home to a midtable finish, and going into his final game it looked as if the fairytale return everyone had hoped for wasn’t to be, but that all changed in the 84th minute of the season finale against Charlton when, with PNE 2-1 down, North End won a free kick on the edge of the box.
The fans held their breath as Grezza stepped up to take it. He dinked it over the wall and straight into the bottom corner, sending the crowd into raptures as they mobbed their returning hero and chanted his name one final time.
The shot turned out to be the last touch of Grezza’s career and every Preston fan will remember the goal as a rare moment of ecstasy amidst the club’s worst spell in decades.
Last modified: 1st November 2019