Thierry Henry’s decision to step down as CF Montreal’s head coach sent shockwaves throughout the soccer world on Thursday. Olivier Renard is now tasked with finding a replacement with under two weeks to go until CF Montreal’s pre-season start date on March 8.
Renard remained coy over potential replacements and refused to name anyone at Thursday’s media availability. “I have a few names I will contact as soon as this zoom ends. I have yet to contact any coaches or agents,” said the Belgian. “It will be up to me to find a coach that fits in the philosophy of the club.”
CF Montreal has been incredibly proactive this offseason, in hopes of bolstering its roster. Renard has overseen a youth movement of sorts, securing a number of talents, including Djordje Mihailovic, Kamal Miller, and most recently added the experienced Bjorn Johnsen in attack. With pre-season fast-approaching, Wilfried Nancy is expected to lead the training sessions on an interim basis.
Renard mentioned Henry’s departure was brewing over the last two weeks, with the French coach first reaching out to him on February 10.
“He asked for my permission to go home to London to deal with personal issues,” said Renard.
CF Montreal was informed of Henry’s final decision on February 22, according to the Belgian.
Reports have linked the former CF Montreal boss with a move to Bournemouth over the past week. The Championship side eventually appointed interim boss Jonathan Woodgate until the end of the season, quashing all rumors. Kevin Gilmore, the club’s President, and CEO – confirmed Henry’s decision had nothing to do with the links to the Bournemouth hot-seat.
“Bournemouth was nothing but a rumor. No one contacted us asking for permission to talk to him,” said Gilmore. “There were no discussions between Thierry and the club.”
CF Montreal is set to kick off its season on April 17, with players set to report to training camp in just under two weeks’ time. Gilmore admits while the timing is not ideal, he understands Henry’s decision.
“There are no deadlines for making personal decisions,” said Gilmore. “They can happen at any time. Last year was difficult for Canadian teams. It took its toll on our staff and on Thierry. He made a difficult decision to be closer to his family.”
Last season, Canadian clubs were forced to base their operations in the United States for much of the year due to mandatory quarantine and health protocols in place. The league is yet to release its plans for 2021 just yet, but all signs are pointing to a similar situation this season.
“All three of our teams are working on alternative plans as to where they’re going to be in the short term,” said MLS commissioner Don Garber. “I feel for our Canadian clubs and I feel for our players.”
Henry mentions this as a driving force in his decision to part ways with CF Montreal. With the club set to spend much of the upcoming season away from home, the uncertainty was simply too much for the Frenchman.
“The last year has been an extremely difficult one for me personally. Due to the worldwide pandemic, I was unable to see my children,” said Henry. “Unfortunately due to the ongoing restrictions and the fact that we will have to relocate to the US again for several months will be no different. The separation is too much of a strain for me and my kids.”
Henry’s departure leaves a gaping hole on the CF Montreal touchline heading into the new season. With seven weeks to go until kickoff and a heavily changed roster to boot, time is of the essence for Renard. The sporting director is already hard at work looking for Henry’s replacement but as another challenging year looms for CF Montreal, the clock is ticking.