Heskey, a rolling stone

An unselfish, solid player or an under-achieving, waste-of-space striker? Heskey's lengthy career divides the opinions of football fans across the country and a look at his history reveals he has never been one to consistently please the crowds. By Leanne Rinne.

All the way from the playing fields of Leicester to Villa Park, via Anfield and St Andrew's, Emile Heskey has become a household name for many reasons.

An unselfish, solid player or an under-achieving, waste-of-space striker? Heskey's lengthy career divides the opinions of football fans across the country and a look at his history reveals he has never been one to consistently please the crowds.

At the tender age of nine, Heskey joined Leicester's football academy, where he continued to thrive until a professional contract was penned at the age of 17. His career really kick-started in 1995 when he made his debut in an English Premier League match against QPR. He scored 10 goals in his first season at Leicester and repeated this achievement the following season (1997/98) to be crowned the club's top goal-scorer as Martin O'Neill's men continued to punch above their weight.

But Heskey's goal success dipped as the millennium approached — even though he was praised for his strong working relationship with fellow striker Tony Cottee. He stayed with the club until 2000, scoring a total of 40 goals from 154 appearances, until Liverpool paid £11million to lure the man known as ‘Bruno' to Anfield. He made 12 appearances for Liverpool during his first season with the club, scoring three goals. The next season he scored 23 times and highlights in his Anfield career included winning a Cup treble in 2001 — the English FA, League and the UEFA Cup. However, his low goal-to-game ratio had the critics gunning for his head and a move to Birmingham offered the burly front-man a fresh start.

It was not long before Heskey was hitting the target again, topping the club's goal-scoring charts in his first season, but between 2005/06 an ankle injury blighted an already dismal season for Heskey who scored just four goals in 34 appearances. It was time to move on again, and this time Wigan swooped with a £5.5million deal, but again Heskey's poor ratio of goals gave fans cause for concern.

For a while other clubs showed signs of interest in the striker, but Heskey stayed at Wigan to see out his contract until Villa — now under the control of his former manager O'Neill — came up with a three-and-a-half year contract early last year. Heskey became a regular starter in Villa's push for a top-four place, but O'Neill's men fell short in finishing sixth, leaving the Northern Irishman to leave his post five days before the start of the 2010/11 season.

Throughout his domestic career, there has been international recognition since his debut in 1999, but in 11 years of service, he managed only seven goals from 62 caps. However, he played his part in some memorable games, none less so than the 5-1 thrashing of Germany in Munich.

Following England's failure at the World Cup in South Africa, Heskey announced he would be packing up his boots in the international arena for good, saying: “I've enjoyed every moment of my England career. I've worn the shirt with pride every time and I've been fortunate enough to be selected. I wish the management team and the playing squad all the best for the future.”

His England career may be over, but his battle for a spot in the Villa side has only just begun and during a period of change at Villa Park, only time will tell how much of an influence Heskey can now have at club level. Heskey is engaged to Chantelle Tagoe and while at Leicester, he once bought a Mitsubishi GTO.

* * * FACTFILE Name: Emile Heskey Position: Striker Club: Aston Villa D.O.B: 11/01/1978 England Caps: 62 England Goals: Seven England Debut: v Hungary, April 1999

Moment to remember: On April 14, 2008, Heskey scored a 90th-minute equalising goal against Chelsea, which damaged their hopes of winning the EPL.

Moment to forget: Heskey came on as a substitute for England during Euro 2004 when the team were leading 1-0 against France. He fouled Claude Makelele on the edge of the penalty area and gave away a direct free-kick to their rivals. France equalised and England went on to lose 2-1.

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