Hating on Heskey

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Neil Sherwin explains why Emile Heskey joining the Hyundai A-League should be welcomed, not frowned upon.

Over 500 Premier League games, 62 international caps and appearances at three World Cups. Not bad is it?

Yet the possibility of Emile Heskey joining the A-League with Newcastle Jets has been the subject of much ridicule for the last 24 hours.

Here’s a few examples from Twitter:

“how Heskey Makes a living By being a professional footballer goes through me! Terrible Footballer #stealingaliving”

“#Heskey to play for Newcastle Jets #ALeague haha oh dear!”

“First reaction to the Heskey news: checked the date to see it wasn’t April 1st. Can’t see the benefit at all.”

“Emile Heskey? Another poor decision by Newcastle, I reckon. Could this be Jardel II?”

In England it became fashionable to take the piss out of Heskey following a dry spell at Liverpool, yet he still featured in the national team under a number of different managers.

Heskey burst on to the scene at Leicester City, winning two league cups in four seasons before moving to Anfield for a fee of £11 million (a club record amount at the time). His five year spell at the club yielded 60 goals in all competitions, two more league cups, the FA Cup, the UEFA Cup, the UEFA Super Cup and the Charity Shield.

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Not bad going.

“Some people like to criticise Emile, but I can produce plenty of facts and figures to back up how important he is to us, and how many goals we have scored that he has been involved in,” said former Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier in 2006.

Heskey then moved on to Birmingham City, Wigan Athletic and Aston Villa where his contract expired at the end of the 2011/12 Premier League season.

While his goals record wasn’t anything to write home about, he still played 242 games over nine seasons and continued to represent England until 2010.

The fact of the matter is that Emile Heskey is a name instantly recognisable to football fans across the globe, his signature still represents something of a coup for a growing league.

Of course, the reported fee of $1.3 million for a one year deal has raised a few eyebrows but Newcastle obviously see it as a risk worth taking, and no doubt got some insightful thoughts from Michael Bridges before proceeding.

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Sadly I think much of the scorn towards him is born out of the Alessandro Del Piero move to Sydney FC.

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There seems to be an element of snobbery developing and thoughts that the A-League is too good for a 34 year old ex-England striker.

It isn’t, not yet, and any player with a resume like Emile Heskey’s should be welcomed with open arms.

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Neil Sherwin
Neil has covered the Perth Glory and the Hyundai A-League for five years and is one of Western Australia's most knowledgeable football journalists.

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