No premier league footballer has received so much ridicule over the lasts few years. Emile Heskey has become a living meme but does have a net worth of £13 million and his wife is Chantelle Tagoe, so I doubt he cares too much. In my opinion Heskey is no joke, he’s a player who has won six major trophies, made 62 international appearances and scored over 150 top-level goals. But to this day England fans still sing “five one and even Heskey scored!” It’s absurd for Heskey, the broad bustling enigma that occupied the national team’s centre forward position spot on and off for nearly a decade, should be used as an offhand way of emphasizing England’s superiority against Germany in 2001.
Heskey started his career at Leicester City, joining the club at the age of nine and working his way thorough the ranks until he made his debt aged 17 just before his hometown club were relegated from the Premier League. In the second-tier he established himself in Foxes team as a powerful centre forward who used his size and brains to outplay many a centre half. After four seasons in the Premier League those qualities were spotted by Liverpool who paid what was then a club record fee of 11 million to sign him in March 2000. This was regarded as a risk at the time, Heskey was still only 22 and by manager Gerard Houllier’s own admission was not the finished product. Plus the fact that he had a relatively modest scoring record to that point.
Nonetheless, his first season at Anfield was a resounding success. He scored 22 as he helped Liverpool to three trophies, the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup. He also became a fixture in Sven-Goran Erickson’s England side as they qualified for the 2002 World Cup, scoring the fifth goal in Munich in the 5-1 routing of Germany. It must be somewhat bittersweet that the strike which should have been among the most moments of his career is now used in a song to remind him that a lot people still don’t think he was very good. After another couple of seasons’ at Liverpool, Heskey moved to Birmingham City where life started quite well. He was the player of the season in the first campaign, as well as being their top goalscorer. But by this point the emergence of Wayne Rooney and Peter Crouch meant that he was no longer an England regular.
Injury problems and inconsistency meant that his time at Birmingham went downhill and after they were relegated in 2006 he moved to Wigan. From there his reputation improved somewhat, he still didn’t score bucket loads of goals but he was more widely recognized for his all-round play and this meant an International resurgence under Fabio Capello. Heskey again became a regular for the national side as more and more people started to appreciate his ability despite not exactly being a goal machine. He could still contribute to the team. Heskey was a player who was a good partner, a man whose qualities got the best from whomever he was playing alongside. Micheal Owen and Wayne Rooney enjoyed productive spells with England when they played up front alongside Emile Heskey.
Heskey retired from International football after England’s disastrous 2010 World Cup campaign. But he enjoyed another couple of seasons at Aston Villa before playing out the last days of his career with Australian side, Newcastle Jets and Bolton Wanders. Emile Heskey will be ultimately judged as a striker who didn’t score enough goals but to think of him as a failure is by relying on our traditional views of what a forward should do. They are seen as individuals, the one’s who grab the glory are remembered. Heskey was a team player, at worst a sidekick to some of his generations most talented footballers. But how those talents thrived so much next to him should tell you all that you need to know!