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Thierry Henry excited to start coaching Montreal Impact

MONTREAL — Thierry Henry views his new job as head coach of the Montreal Impact as a fresh start. Speaking to reporters at the soccer club's training centre on Monday for the first time, the French legend preached patience.

MONTREAL — Thierry Henry views his new job as head coach of the Montreal Impact as a fresh start.

Speaking to reporters at the soccer club's training centre on Monday for the first time, the French legend preached patience. 

Henry will be aiming to put his stamp on the Impact, who haven't made the Major League Soccer playoffs in three seasons, finishing the 2019 campaign with a 12-17-5 record.

He sought to temper expectations, assuring he has a plan.

"We will have to work hard, be patient," Henry said. "But we know what we want to do with a certain identity and philosophy, we will have to bring the community with us too, it's very important, because I think the fans need to see themselves in the team and to see that the team also represents the city and the community."

Henry was asked frequently about his forgettable tenure as head coach with AS Monaco in Ligue 1 that ended abruptly in January just three months in.

Henry said he'd addressed the Monaco situation and paid respect to the club that gave him his start — first as a player and then as a coach.

"It didn't work out, I wish them all the best," Henry said. "I can give you a lot of excuses, but it didn't work out, and at the end of the day, I'm here, I'm the coach of the Montreal Impact."

The retired striker, regarded as one of the best ever, said every stop along the way is a chance to win or learn — calling his first stint as a head coach a "great learning process" without saying exactly what he learned from it.

"The only mistake that you can make is not learning from what happened," Henry said. "But you need to come back ... and I'm more than happy to have this opportunity with this club and with this city."

The Impact offered him a two-year deal, with an option for 2022 last Thursday.

Henry is no stranger to the league, having spent four-plus seasons in MLS with the New York Red Bulls, scoring 51 goals and adding 42 assists in 122 games. He won the Supporters' Shield in 2013 and was a four-time MLS all-star.

The Impact were without a head coach since the team announced last month that Wilmer Cabrera would not be back next season. The Colombian had signed on Aug. 21 as interim head coach, after Remi Garde's dismissal.

Henry said he's not frightened by the number of Impact coaches that have come and gone — he's the seventh since 2012.

"That's not the type of thing I think of, like I said, you have to start somewhere, you can only acquire experience by taking jobs," Henry said. "It goes without saying, sometimes you start well, sometimes you don't ... you find out a lot about yourself in tough situations."

Olivier Renard, the Impact's sporting director, said he looked at a number of people before deciding on Henry.

"When we spoke with him, we felt and I felt that we can (reach) the goal," Renard said, declining to say how many people were consulted for the job.

"It's not about how many, I wanted one and I took one," Renard said.

Team president Kevin Gilmore had promised in January the Impact would change its approach and Henry is the next step following the arrival of forward Bojan Krkic, and Renard as sporting director.

"He too has chosen this league, this club and this city," Gilmore said.

Henry will be on the job as of mid-January when training camp begins.

He had no doubts about picking Montreal — the city — as a landing spot.

"If you take the best of Europe and the best part of the continent here, North America, you'll arrive in Montreal," Henry said. "I think it's the perfect bridge — the city is so diverse, people come from everywhere but first and foremost, they're from Montreal and they are Quebecois."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2019.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press