It’s not entirely surprising he should choose this player to mimic. They trained together at Arsenal where Emmanuel-Thomas – or JET as he’s more commonly known – came through the academy. Henry took great interest in a player trying to make the breakthrough at the club. In the event, JET only played a handful of first-team games and despite Wenger’s enthusiasm, has ended up having a peripatetic – some would say journeyman – career to date.
He has, however, retained some of what he learned in Henry’s company and he demonstrated this in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Hamilton Accies as Livingston sealed a top six place.
His flick-up-and-volley routine for the opener was right out of the Henry book of spectacular strikes – specifically the one he scored in a 1-0 win over Manchester United in 2000, when he flicked the ball up while just outside the box and turned to volley right-footed over countryman Fabian Barthez’s head. Emmanuel-Thomas now wants to score with a back-heeler – another of Henry’s memorable Arsenal goals.
“Thierry was one of my idols, especially being at Arsenal with him and seeing him in training every day,” he explained. “But you never think you’re going to have the chance to replicate a goal as legendary as the one against United.
“It just seemed to sit up perfectly for me to execute it. I was thinking about it as the ball was on its way to me – it was at the right speed, the defender was on the right side of me, so I was thinking that if I could shift the ball up with the first touch…well, I know I was much closer than he was, but if I caught it right the keeper would have no chance. As soon as I hit it, I knew it was perfect.
“I was at Arsenal from when I was seven and that goal against United was one you’ll never forget. That and the backheel he scored at Charlton are the two he scored at Arsenal that I’ll remember most,” he added.
“So now that I’ve scored my version of this one, maybe one day if the ball falls right I can manage the other one as well. He was a great mentor, such a great person to speak to, someone who always had so much advice for younger players who wanted to play as a forward.
“He wasn’t just an everyday striker; he was a leader who took Arsenal to so many trophies. He was a great person to study close up.”
With an ability to score goals like Saturday’s, one wonders why Emmanuel-Thomas has not been more central to Livingston’s success this season. He has struck only five times since October and was just a second-half substitute in the League Cup final defeat to St Johnstone. Scott Robinson has been preferred in the centre-forward role but his current situation – described mysteriously as “unavailable for selection” by manager David Martindale – means Emmanuel-Thomas is likely to have a pivotal part to play in Livingston’s efforts to finish fifth – at least.