Here’s why Emile Heskey jokes are cheap and unjustified

Emile Heskey gets a lot of shit from football fans, and has done for years now. But throughout the course of the former England international’s career, the striker offered so much more than being the punchline to a joke.

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First things first, Heskey knew how to find the back of the net. Sure, people will make digs, but just look at his early days with Leicester City and Liverpool – he was an integral part of the Foxes’ promotion campaign aswell as the Reds’ treble season.

So then, what did he do for the game? He defined it. Now now, please lower your pitchforks – I have reasons. Emile Heskey helped to revolutionise the big man role from an early age, and as he got older he was able to transition into a slower and more physical style whilst still maintaining his place for both club and country.

Bolton Wanderers 2-1 Blackburn Rovers [Championship] 26/12/2014 Emile Heskey 59’ (Assist: Eidur Gudjohnsen)

Many young players over a decade ago were following in Heskey’s footsteps, altering the way they played in order to suit the role that the Englishman was capable of performing. The way in which he was able to keep playing week in, week out showed his experience and durability, which is something alot of players admired.

He was the perennial target man. The force that Heskey played with frightened defences because having to deal with him was like having to deal with two or three players, in the sense that he could bring so many others into the game.

Most importantly, Emile was selfless with and without the ball; he showed strikers that you don’t need greed or hunger for goals in order to succeed, because the amount of assists he racked up continued to help his image in the eyes of many.

“Forwards are judged on their goalscoring. But I like to think I bring a lot more to the game and I do get pleasure from assisting”

Emile Heskey

His versatility, in particular, helped him during his international days, and he was able to slot into a number of different formations and positions when called upon. Not many other players at that time could lay claim to that, and even fewer could do it with the success of Heskey.

Many people were furious at the decision to continually play him during England’s poor 2010 World Cup campaign, but he constantly worked his arse off and even set up the nation’s first goal in the competition.

If nothing else, Heskey gave everything for the game that he loved. That statement in itself is more than can be said for dozens of players in the Premier League alone, and the 38-year-old has earned a strong legacy.