Will England Miss the Abilities of Emile Heskey?

June 27, 2010 - Bloemfontein, South Africa - epa02226562 Emile Heskey of England shows dejection after the FIFA World Cup 2010 Round of 16 match between Germany and England at the Free State stadium in Bloemfontein, South Africa, 27 June 2010.

It’s no longer new news, but England will now be without their second or third choice striker Emile Heskey as he’s recently announced his retirement from international football. But my question to you the readers of EPL Talk is: will he be missed?

By examining Heskey’s numbers one will find that he’s had a respectable run of service with the England national team appearing 62 times yet has returned a poor goal scoring record having netted only seven. Often described as a classic number 9 with every attribute except prolificacy in front of goal, Heskey embodied a striker that could create space for those around him with his pace, power, strength, touch and his ability in the air.

When partnering an out and out goal scorer like a Michael Owen in his prime, Heskey’s ability to create space with his movement and ability to hold up the ball resulted in one of England’s most famous victories of their footballing history, the 5-1 demolition of Germany in Munich. On the night, Owen recorded a hat trick while Heskey added a goal on way to the famous route.

On his day and in the right formation, Heskey is a valuable player. ‘He’s a top professional and hard worker’ according to his current Aston Villa teammate Brad Friedel who spoke about Heskey’s retirement on the 5 Live Football Daily podcast. Friedel went on to discuss how he understands that there can be a difference of opinion concerning Heskey yet supports him anyway because of his professionalism and dedication to his team. Heskey’s appearances in the World Cup were lackluster to average at best, although the same can be said for that of other England players also.

The time does in fact seem right for Mr. Heskey to focus on club football with Aston Villa. They’ll need his experience either coming off the bench or leading the line more than the England team will. As the continental brand of football led by the emerging 4-2-3-1 formation (the teams that finished first, second and third in the World Cup all implemented this formation) continues to evolve, starting spots on national teams for players like Heskey will soon start to become few and far between.

On a side note, England’s failure to deal with Germany’s 4-2-3-1 v their 4-4-2, was largely the reason England were overrun in midfield. The 4-2-3-1 allowed the Germans an extra man in midfield higher up the pitch which allowed players like Mesut Ozil to find Miroslav Klose, Lukas Podolski and others who would drift into space created by Germany’s width. I digress, so surely an idea for a future post.

So what say you EPL Talk readers, will England miss Mr. Heskey’s ability to hold up the ball and drag defenders out as Wayne Rooney blitzes in on goal? Or, will the next round of England qualification matches go on as if Heskey was simply a fading breeze in the memory of England fans?

16 thoughts on “Will England Miss the Abilities of Emile Heskey?”

  1. Actually, yes. If there’s one lesson to learn from this World Cup, it’s that you don’t have a chance in hell of success if teammates won’t work for each other. England will miss this rare, selfless player who put team before personal press.

    Interestingly, nobody doubts for a second the value of Peter Beardsley to England squads of the past, but his numbers are very similar to Heskey’s: (PB 59-9: EH 62-7). Beardsley partnered the best England had to offer in Lineker and Shearer, but nobody brings up his strike rate and doubts his contribution. As you point out, Heskey’s role, like Beardsley’s is to help create chances for others. He’s had a fair bit of success in the process, providing opportunities for Owen and Rooney, albeit not at the World Cup.

    And speaking of which, I think we all can agree that the 4-4-2 was a part of the problem but once again, someone wants to give the preening prima donnas in the middle a pass. As long as both Gerrard and Lampard are waiting for others to be their providers instead of rolling up their sleeves and doing the work themselves, and Gareth Barry is making idiotic decisions that lead to turnovers at the worst possible times, the blame needs to stay with the people who play the games. No system in the world compensates for dysfunctional players in midfield or a centre half pairing that can’t judge the flight of a goal kick and run around like chickens with their heads cut off.

    1. BR – great points all around that prove the England debate is as fresh and vital as ever.

      It seems very easy for England fans to place blame on Heskey simply because of the fact that he doesn’t score alot of goals. Yet, the problems with England run deeper than just one player who doesn’t score alot.

      Still, I think Heskey probably made the right decision as England will have to look at changing their formation to keep up with the rest of Europe which leads to Heskey not fitting in well in a different tactical set up.

      One thing’s for certain, if England play a 4-4-2 at the next Euro (if they qualify), they’ll be eliminated very quickly.

  2. I always had a bit of sympathy for Heskey, he did play an important role and made his striker partners look so good

    Depends what system England want to play now.

    I personally, as a Newcastle fan, am hoping that Andy Carroll can reproduce his form last season in the Premier League. If he can, then he will no doubt be a candidate for a new look England squad (which is badly needed).

  3. Heskey was England’s best striker at the WC, yet he got dropped because England prefer players from Big Clubs to players that perform. heskey wasn’t brilliant but you could’ve put his mum upfront instead of Rooney and noticed more creativity.

    Capello has finally fallen to the same as every other England manager – pick players by their club and not on form and you can’t lose. Or can you?

    1. I agree fully, people jumped on Heskey’s back because he had a shot saved by Howard in the first game, despite the fact he assisted the first goal and was attempting to go about his job

      in truth, Heskey had a better tournament than Rooney, but no one wanted to say it and because Rooney is known as the top player in the England side, they’re too scared to drop him

    2. Honestly though, picking players by club helped 2 of the most successful teams in the World Cup this year. Germany=Mostly Bayern and Spain=Mostly Barcelona

  4. Heskey is a hard worker, there is no doubt about it. Whenever he is wearing the England Jersey, he seems to perform at a very high level, even though he has less technical ability than either Gerrard, Lampard or Rooney. But this guy played his heart out for England and for that I give him lot of credit. He is not a top draw striker and I think he knew what his role in the team was. His hold up play and his heading ability was second to none. He is the kind of player who top notch strikers relish to have because he does all the dirty work and strikers feed off him. Even if he was in the team, I don’t think it would have made much difference, since I believe England’s problems lies deeper that we can imagine, however he would have given energy boost that was lacking. England would have been better off having 11 Heskeys. Now that would have made the difference.

  5. Heskey, at his best, has always been mediocre. England might as well pack it in if they can’t come up with someone better.

  6. I think that the value of a player like Emile Heskey is difficult for fans to understand, and I can see why so many people question his value to England. Obviously, it’s hard to appreciate the usefullness of a striker who doesn’t often score. The fact is, though, that fellow strikers – like Michael Owen and Tony Cottee – have consistently supported him as one of the best strike partners they have played with; also, 4 different England managers have relied on him. Heskey is an unselfish player who excels at aspects of the game that are difficult to quantify, like pressuring defenders, winning headers, holding up the ball, making runs that create space for other players, etc. Professional players and managers – who obviously know more about the technical side of the game than most fans and reporters – appreciate the importance of these attributes. Less importantly, everyone who has played with him praises his work ethic, professionalism, and positive influence on the team atmosphere in training etc.

  7. In competitive games, England only lost one game and that was against a Brazilian team that blazed their way to winning after beating England 2-1. Heskey was Englands man of the match. Heskey helped England beat Germany 5-1 and Spain 3-0. It is no coincidence England failed to make the European championships with Mclaren as manager but only nearly made it when Heskey was in the team helping them beat teams they could not beat before he was reinstated. If he was not injured in the last game they would have madde it. It is no coincidence 5 international managers called him to play (he didn’t call them). And it is no coincidence England lost 4-1 in South Africa after Heskey was dropped. Good managers know the priority is for the team to win against the best teams, not for Heskey to score goals. The media’s malicious attacks and abuse against this humble and kind player is baffling. I pity his family and I thank him for what he has selflessly done for our team.

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