When you think about the name Heskey, what do you think of? Chances are if you were born in the late 90’s onwards you picture Heskey at Aston Villa striking the ball against the bar from a yard out. Or worse still, you may be reminded of the viral internet song ‘Heskey Time’ – if you haven’t heard it, you’re one of the lucky ones. I don’t recommend it…. Anyway, with all the hype young players get nowadays and how overrated certain individuals are, you have to wonder why and how someone like Heskey became so criminally underrated.
If you, like many other readers, don’t know Emile Heskey very well, let me educate you on this brilliant player.
Imagine a huge powerful striker, with an outstanding ability to turn any wayward clearance into what appears to be beautifully weighted pass. Imagine someone who can hold off multiple defenders at a time, and then unselfishly slip the ball to a team mate through on goal. Imagine someone with not only the pure strength I’ve just described, but also an immense pace. That man you are imagining is Emile Heskey, in his prime, at Liverpool.
When Heskey signed for Liverpool from Leicester as a 22-year-old he became the most expensive Liverpool player in history – so he was under a lot of pressure. But it didn’t take long for the then-young striker to get into his stride and start scoring. In fact, one of the things that helped him in his Liverpool career was the partnership he formed with compatriot and fellow youngster Michael Owen. I must stress, though, that this partnership was just as important for Heskey as it was Owen – Owen went on to win the Ballon d’Or in 2001, but perhaps things may have been different if he didn’t have Heskey by his side. It’s worth noting that in that 2000/2001 season Heskey scored two fewer goals (22) than Michael Owen.
Now, I’m not going to lie and tell you about how Heskey scored 30 goals a season throughout his career, or how he'd nutmeg opposition players for fun because that wasn’t how he played. His play style was predicated on doing the dirty work and allowing his teammates to get the glory, and in doing so he did manage to get a fair few goals for himself – up until now he has amassed 164 career goals.
Now 39, Heskey is no longer the monster he once was. He’s currently a free agent and, in all honesty, he hasn’t been at his best since way before leaving Aston Villa. Unfortunately, though, people have chosen not to remember the numerous trophies he won with Liverpool, and instead have decided to remember all those times he smashed it over the bar in the latter stages of his career.
I’m not saying Heskey should be named the greatest footballer to have ever played the game, but I do think he deserves a little more praise.
That’s just my opinion, anyway.
by George (@georgescbl on Twitter)