A privilege to wear the same number as Thierry Henry for Arsenal, says Nikita Parris

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 (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Growing up Nikita Parris idolised Thierry Henry and so it should come as little surprise to learn that when she signed for Arsenal Women this summer, the England forward requested to wear the No14 shirt.

That number is synonymous with Henry, who became Arsenal’s record goalscorer, and now Parris is determined to make her own mark in north London after moving to the Gunners from Lyon this summer.

“It was my request,” Parris tells Standard Sport, when asked about her decision to wear the No14 shirt this season.

“Ever since I was a young girl, my role model was Thierry Henry and also Julie Fleeting (who spent eight years with the Gunners).

“Thierry Henry during his time in the Premier League was, for me, the best striker to ever play in the Premier League. It is a privilege to have the same number as him.

“I loved his and Julie Fleeting’s enthusiasm to score goals. Every goal was celebrated properly, they scored goals on a regular basis.

 (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

“I don’t think Thierry Henry needs any introduction for what he’s done in the English game and the same goes with Julie Fleeting in the women’s game. They are just unbelievable footballers and, if I can have half the careers that they did, I’ll be very happy.”

Parris won the Women’s Super League, FA Cup and League Cup with Manchester City before adding more honours at Lyon.

The 27-year-old forward won all the domestic honours on offer in France, as well as the Champions League, and it is why she felt the time was right to return to England this summer.

“When I spoke to Arsenal and their plans for the future, they just aligned with mine,” says Parris.

“Their plans were to maintain their core group of players and then add to it, in order to bring prolonged success to the club.

“Every footballer is here to compete, but also to win, and that’s the most important thing. When we spoke I said I want to continue winning trophies, and so do Arsenal.”

Parris admits the WSL has changed since she left in 2019. Clubs are investing more than ever in their women’s team and the WSL’s new broadcast deal, worth around £7m-£8m per season for three years, has only aided that.

“There has been a lot more investment into teams, commercialisation has gone through the roof in the women’s game and for me the WSL is the most competitive women’s league in the world,” says Parris.

 (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

“Look at the investment Everton have put in this year. No team has allowed others to go too far ahead of them, each team has invested at the right time. When it all comes together it will be fantastic.”

Parris has changed too since she was last in England. She found the first six months in France very difficult as she lived alone in a new country.

Eventually, Parris acclimatised and she still works on her French today by listening to podcast in that language.

“I think I am more settled in who I am as a person, when you go out to a different country you really found out who you are,” says Parris.

“When I went outside my comfort zone I found I liked different things that I didn’t really think I liked. For me, France has opened my eyes to a lot more and really allowed me to grow.”

Arsenal represents a new chapter for Parris and Sunday’s WSL opener with Chelsea, at Emirates Stadium, is the perfect way to announce her arrival.

It is also the ideal chance for Arsenal to lay down an early marker as they welcome the champions to north London.

The Gunners want to be challenging Chelsea for their crown this season, so does Parris think that’s possible?

“Of course, that’s why I’m here,” she says.

Arsenal Women take on Chelsea at Emirates Stadium in the Women’s Super League on Sunday September 5 (12.30pm kick-off). Get your tickets here

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