Emile William Ivanhoe Heskey is an English former professional footballer who played as a striker. He made more than 500 appearances in the Football League and Premier League over an 18-year career, and represented England in international football. He also had a spell in Australia, playing for the A-League club Newcastle Jets. Born in Leicester, Heskey started his career with Leicester City after progressing through their youth system, making his first-team debut in 1995. After winning the League Cup in 1997 and 2000 he made an £11 million move to Liverpool in 2000, which, at the time, was the record transfer fee paid by the club. At Liverpool, he won multiple honours, including the FA Cup in 2001. He moved to Birmingham City in 2004 and after their relegation from the Premier League signed for Wigan Athletic for a club record £5.5 million fee in 2006. He signed for Aston Villa in 2009 and was released in 2012 before signing for A-League club Newcastle Jets. After two years, he returned to England, finishing his career with Championship club Bolton Wanderers. Heskey was an England international at under-16, under-18, under-21, B and senior levels. He made his England debut against Hungary in a 1–1 draw in 1999. He lost his place in the squad after UEFA Euro 2004, during which he failed to shine and was the subject of much criticism. After a long lay-off from international duty, Heskey was recalled to the England squad for UEFA Euro 2008 qualifiers in September 2007. He retired from international football following the 2010 FIFA World Cup, having attained 62 caps and scored 7 goals for his country.
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England played the final qualifying game against Greece on 6 October 2001. England needed to win or draw the match to qualify outright for the World Cup, but were losing 2–1 with little time remaining. When Teddy Sheringham was fouled eight yards outside the Greek penalty area, England were awarded a free-kick and Beckham ensured England’s qualification with a curling strike of the kind that had become his trademark. Beckham was voted the BBC Sports Personality of the Year for 2001, and finished runner-up, to Luís Figo of Portugal, for the FIFA World Player of the Year award. This style of shirt was the first England’s shirt with match details on it. Since then all of the England’s shirts have date and match details on.
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Heskey plays as a forward, being a powerful targetman gifted with pace and physical strength; he is also a hard working player. His play has been likened to “a blunt instrument with which to bludgeon defences”. His main contributions to the team lie in the way he holds the ball up and draws defenders out, leaving space behind him for another player to score. He has been credited as being an unselfish player who allows other forwards to benefit. He is not a prolific goalscorer but is able to provide a significant number of assists as a second striker. He has been quoted as saying “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”. He impressed the England staff with his versatility, as he can also play down the left wing. However, he has been criticised by the media for his lack of goals; lapses in his goalscoring have been described as being “hardly uncommon”. In 2008 it was stated that “It is only the perception of his talents that changes” after Heskey stated he was no better or worse than before.
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Although primarily a forward, he was also used in a more withdrawn role on occasion during his time with Aston Villa, functioning as an attacking midfielder, whose role was to link-up the midfield with the attack, or even as a central midfielder. Heskey was born in Leicester, Leicestershire to a family of Antiguan descent, and his father, Tyrone Heskey, ran the security of nightclubs in Leicester. He attended City of Leicester School, Evington. Heskey joined Cheshire League One club Egerton in 2017 as a coach, alongside Jlloyd Samuel, Jim Cherneski and Dean Gorré. In May 2020 Heskey revealed that he was on a UEFA Management course and was looking to take up an internship with Leicester City’s women’s side as part of it. He was the partner of Kylee Pinsent but left her in 2004 and married Chantelle (née Tagoe) in May 2014 at Rookery Hall, Cheshire. He started seeing Tagoe secretly in 2002, who worked part-time as a waitress at a lap-dancing bar in Liverpool, while still in a relationship with Pinsent. Following the revelation of his two-year affair with Tagoe, Pinsent broke up with Heskey. He is the father of six children, three of them with former partner Pinsent and three with Tagoe. His fiancée Tagoe was held at knifepoint at their home in Hale, Greater Manchester in July 2008, while he was at a training session. The thieves burgled the house and stole Heskey’s car but neither Tagoe, nor their two (at the time) children who were in the house, were hurt. Following this, he said Tagoe was “very, very distressed” by the incident. In 2009, he was rated as owning a personal fortune of £12 million. Heskey and other members of the England team supported the Shoe Aid for Africa campaign in 2009, which was aimed at helping underprivileged children in Africa.
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Heskey signed for Aston Villa on 23 January 2009 for a £3.5 million fee on a three-and-a-half-year contract. He made his debut four days later against Portsmouth and scored with a shot from 20 yards, the first time he had scored on a club debut. He scored one more goal before the end of the season, with the opening goal in a 1–1 draw with West Ham United. He finished 2008–09 with 14 appearances and 2 goals for Villa. He suffered from concussion after minutes into a Peace Cup pre-season friendly match against Málaga CF in July 2009. Heskey was reported to have said he was considering leaving Villa during the January 2010 transfer window, to help ensure he would be chosen for the England team at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, to which manager Martin O’Neill responded by saying “There are players at this club with England ambitions. I wouldn’t be overly concerned about all that yet.” However, Heskey later denied he was seeking to leave Villa. O’Neill told him to “build up a head of steam” in February 2010, saying he was concerned that Heskey’s injuries were denying him from producing his best form. He started for Villa in the 2010 League Cup Final, in which they lost 2–1 to Manchester United. Heskey finished 2009–10 with 42 appearances and 5 goals. His first appearance of 2010–11 came after starting in a 1–1 draw at Rapid Vienna in the Europa League play-off first leg. Under Gérard Houllier, who previously managed Heskey at Liverpool, the striker enjoyed a successful start to the 2010–11 campaign including winning goals in the local derbies with Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Bromwich Albion. On 7 May 2011, in Aston Villa’s home match against Wigan, Heskey barged into referee Mike Jones and continued to argue with him because he did not award a free kick for an alleged elbow by Antolín Alcaraz. Heskey received a yellow card for his behaviour and had to be restrained by teammates such as Brad Friedel and captain Stiliyan Petrov. He played for the remainder of the half, but had to be restrained again in the tunnel at the interval. Caretaker manager Gary McAllister chose to substitute him for Marc Albrighton at half-time, and Heskey was not allowed to remain at the stadium for the rest of the match. Despite his outburst, Heskey received no punishment from either Villa or The Football Association. Teammate Luke Young later said that Heskey was “lucky he didn’t get sent off”. Heskey remained with Villa for one more season, in which he scored just once, in an August 2011 win over Blackburn. He was released in May 2012 after being told he would not be offered a new contract.