Roberto Martinez: I hope the Irish public has forgiven Thierry Henry for playing handball


Irish football meets an old foe tonight when Thierry Henry joins coach Roberto Martinez in the dugout at the Aviva Stadium as Belgium take on Ireland in a friendly to celebrate the FAI’s centenary.

More than a dozen years ago, Henry reached out to score the winning goal during a World Cup playoff at the Stade de France. He was “Public Enemy No. 1” here at the time, but Martinez hopes the passage of the years has healed old wounds.

“Thierry wrote beautiful stories as a player, he was a wonderful footballer and now he’s a key figure in our back room,” said the Belgium coach. “It would not be fair of me to comment on something that happened a long time ago.”

On Martinez’s other side tonight will be Anthony Barry, who was Stephen Kenny’s top manager until three months ago.

“I’ve followed Anthony’s career since he was a young manager at Wigan and I was delighted to have him on board. I get a feeling from people in Irish football that you were sorry to lose him and you were right. But getting him to coach Belgium is our win.”

Tonight’s Belgium assistant captain Youri Tielemans said: “Anthony has already made a huge impression on us in the few days of training leading up to this game. He’s known for his work on set pieces and we’re already seeing that.”

Belgium are set to travel to Qatar in November for perhaps one last chance at serious success for their ‘golden generation’. They have been so close at the last two major championships, only edged out by eventual winners, France at the 2018 World Cup and Italy at last year’s Euros.

Team change or not, Tielemans has no intention of losing to Ireland. “If we play well against Ireland and lose, I’ll be very disappointed,” he said. “You always want both, you want victory and performance too. We noticed a change in Irish style and did a little analysis, so we’re really looking forward to the game to a full house. I know a lot of the Irish players from club games and I’m looking forward to it.”

Martinez will meet a friendly face during the pre-game warm-up. “I’m definitely looking forward to meeting Séamus (Coleman). When I made it at Everton he was the best right-back in the Premier League and that was because of him, not me. It will be good to see each other again.”

The Belgium boss, whose team have been world no. to get this right, to turn things around.” Roberto Martinez: I hope the Irish public has forgiven Thierry Henry for playing handball

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