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Emile Heskey

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Yet again the comments on these pages return my thoughts to Emile Heskey. Emile produced one his best performances, as a Liverpool player last weekend, yet still appears to be the subject of mocking comments, from some quarters.

It is now nearly two years since Emile signed as a 21-year striker, with undoubted raw talent, but not a regular goalscorer. He was a regular in the Leicester first team, and had represented his country at numberous of levels, including full international. Houllier had first seen Emile playing in an under-17 tournament for England, against France, and had been so impressed that he continued to monitor his development until he was convinced enough to pay £11 million for him. This was no panic buy, it was the purchase that had been planned for months, if not years, and one which was made for the long haul rather than for immediate glorification.

After a settling-in period, Emile started last season in great form and went on to produce such a consistent level of performance that he became the only forward to start all three cup-finals, as well as producing easily his best return in terms of goals. Many Liverpool fans, myself included, we sceptical, to say the least, of his ability to provide an alternative to Fowler as Owen’s strike partner.

His form lay this theory to rest. Houllier’s confidence in the player was there for all to see and Emile obviously felt at home in his new surroundings “I always knew what I was capable of. Obviously I’m always working on my game and the manager has worked on little things with me. But there isn’t much difference in my game.”
“The main thing now is confidence. With confidence you can perform a lot better.” Explained Heskey.
The relationship between the manager and Emile is patently close, as overwhelmingly illustrated during the managers brief stay at Melwood last week. The manager shares a bond with Heskey, and he knows that the manager has confidence in him. "I think I’m basically the same player who was at Leicester but with the different players around me and the confidence it has all fallen into place. The boss is always taking me to one side and having a quiet word about little things in my game whereas at Leicester Martin (O’Neill) was more of a motivator. They both have similar ideas about the game but Gerard takes me aside for specific one-on-one coaching on certain aspects of my game, which has helped me a lot” Explained Emile.

His form, was such last season, that in December, there was uproar at his omission from the starting line-up, which GH had to defend in press conference "We have five important games in just 15 days and Emile has already played in the first two (against Charlton and Olympiakos). We need to have everybody fit. Are you saying that Michael and Robbie are not Premiership players?"

A far cry, from the response of some fans when he was left out of the game against Birmingham recently, barely twelve months (and five trophies later).

Saturdays opposing manager can certainly see positives in Emile’s play, after Emile’s goal at Ipswich last season earned us a draw Burley pondered:
“He's still young and, as Gerard Houllier has said, he's probably not the finished article yet. But he's got so much quality and great attributes he's strong, quick and can score goals so he's really an exceptional talent.

He's strong and physical, centre-halves know they are playing against him. He's certainly going to have a big future for the England team."

At the end of the season Gerrard reflected over Emile’s performances, attitude and opportunities for improvement:

“"What can Emile do to improve? Well, at times he should probably have more self-belief and more confidence in front of goal," said Houllier. "Maybe in a season he will be able to have that confidence, which all strikers need.

He should be more clinical, like Robbie Fowler. When there is a ball in the box, Robbie scores. Emile isn't there yet. Yes, he has scored 20 goals for us and one for England this season. But he has missed a lot as well it should be more."

He obviously believes that an influx of “self-belief” in Heskey could transform him from a good striker to a world class one.

This season started reasonably enough for Emile, and his form was good enough for not too many people to be interested in his lack of goals. A fine goal in the Super Cup, against the European champions, where he waltzed between two defenders before slotting calmly passed Khan showed the qualities that Emile possesses.

Under Erickson, Emile has established himself as a regular with England. Prior to Germany game Rudi Voller identified Emile as his biggest worry, magnified by his performance and goal against Bayern Munich. John Barnes enthused about Heskey “they will also fear his pace along with his power and aggression.”

As for his partner, on that occasion, and many others for Liverpool  Owen said: "I've no doubt that Emile can cause problems to any player he plays against. When he's playing well, there are not many people who can stop him.

He's got pace and strength, a great combination, and no defence will relish playing against him.

I don't think the Germans will relish facing a few of our strikers but Emile can strike the fear of God into anyone when he is playing well.

Different strikers do have different attributes but I think Germany will be fearful of Emile especially as some of them played against him last week when he showed what he can do.”
It is also obvious that Michael relishes playing alongside Heskey.

That night was probably the start of his barren goal-scoring run at club level, and losing Houllier for so long has clearly had a negative effect on him. He has kept on plugging away and undoubtedly always gives his all. One of the problems that Emile has is that his aerial ability combined with Michael’s pace are too often an easy option for other players, especially if they are under pressure. This has led to an over-reliance on the long ball especially at Anfield, rather than perfecting the counter attacking style we used successfully last season.

Emile has often performed better when the midfield have got forward quicker, and played in more advanced positions leaving Didi to patrol in front of the defence. His performances, both home and away against Man United, drew on his ability to bring the ball down and bring other players into the game, as well as flicking on longer balls. In both of these games he was outstanding, and contributed fully to the victory without hitting the net.

Emile did, however, play an important role in leading us to the top of the table earlier in the season, as well as putting in some impressive performances in Europe, where defenders are regularly in fear of him. He has always worked hard and, unlike some players going through a barren spell, has never hidden.  

I was thrilled with Emile’s performance on Saturday and delighted for him with his two-goal return. Prior to the game Phil Thompson noted  "Emile has had some criticism but to us he has done a great job. When we went to the top of the League he played a major part - and he still wasn't scoring goals then. People should ask why Michael Owen has scored such a lot of goals and look at who is creating the space and taking the weight off Michael."

Afterwards he took a swipe at some knockers, he said: "I keep having to champion his cause. But I shouldn't have to if people knew football a bit better.

He has been outstanding for us. Even when we went top of the league and he wasn't scoring goals he played an exceptional part in our triumphs.

What you get with Emile is that he never hides, but because he hasn't scored many goals he wasn't getting too many mentions.

But his performances have been fantastic for the team and for the club. He deserved his goals today. He worked hard for them."

It is becoming increasingly clear that Phil has as much faith in Emile as the manager does. Heskey is a strong player who has undoubtedly been low on confidence recently. Emile himself has identified the improvement in his form from Leicester to Liverpool as being down to confidence and his relationship with Houlllier- both have been missing recently. Judges as good as Houllier, Thomson, O’Neil and Errickson appear to think that he is both a good footballer and an asset to their football teams. Both Houllier and Errickson also appear to believe that Heskey is the best foil for Michael Owen’s undoubted gifts.  

Many shrewd judges appear to have a belief in Emile’s strengths and abilities, that is lacking in some Liverpool fans. I have an unshakeable belief that Gerrard Houllier will make us the greatest team in Europe again, and central to his plans is the role of Emile Heskey.

Steve C:

Interesting to remember Owen being left out of the Worthy Final less than a year ago. People questioned whether he was burnt out, too injury-prone, too reliant on pace alone.

Some even suggested his career was close to an end.

Fowler scored that day, and he was the hero.

Three months on and he won the Cup for us.

He scored a hatrick against Germany, in Germany.

He won European footballer of the Year, the most presitigious personal prize in football.

He has become the most feared striker in Europe, and Liverpool's undisputed number 1.

All within a year.

Houllier knows what he's doing. As you said, our record buy wasnt a whim. Far from it. Heskey's regular partner for England youth teams? Thats right, Michael Owen.

Houllier has had the partnership of Owen and Heskey planned for a long time.

He believes it is the forward line that follows in the natural line of great Liverpool FC partnerships up front.

I feel that Emile and Michael at Liverpool is some kind of destiny. Part of Houllier's master-plan.

"And now with Gerard Houllier,
The glory days are here to stay,
With Heskey and Owen in attack,
The Championship is coming back."



--- Quote ---
"And now with Gerard Houllier,
The glory days are here to stay,
With Heskey and Owen in attack,
The Championship is coming back."

--- End quote ---


;D ;D ;D ;D ;DDamn Right! ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D


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