Emile Heskey represented England at four major tournaments
The former Liverpool striker is now coaching Leicester City’s women
He tells FIFA.com about that job and gives his take on England’s Class of 2021
Emile Heskey is one of Leicester’s favourite football sons. A local lad made good, he lifted two League Cups for his hometown team before becoming a treble-winner at Liverpool and earning 62 caps for his country.
In a ‘golden generation’ of dazzling individual English talent, he was the unflashy personification of humility and hard work. Michael Owen, for whom he acted as a tireless and selfless foil, still names him – without hesitation – as his best strike partner.
Now 43, Heskey finds himself back at Leicester City, beginning his coaching career where he started out as a player. But he is not, as might have been expected, taking those early steps with Brendan Rodgers’ UEFA Champions League-chasing men’s team.
His expertise is instead being utilised with the club’s women, who this season earned promotion to the increasingly star-studded WSL 1, topping the second tier with two games to spare.
Jonathan Morgan, the side’s manager, had spent his youth idolising Heskey. “We still joke about it now,” he said recently, “but I remember when I was a young lad at the park literally saying Emile’s name when I was scoring goals.” Now Morgan says he is discovering and benefiting from the same humble honesty that made the former England striker such a favourite of team-mates and managers.
Heskey is relishing the coaching experience, too, and explained why in an interview in which he took time to reflect on his England career and assess the Three Lions’ current generation.
FIFA.com: Emile, can you tell us how the job with Leicester City Women came about and how you’ve been enjoying it so far?
I’ve been loving it to be honest. I’d been a Leicester club ambassador for a while and I’m on a UEFA course which requires you to undertake some work experience inside the football club, so I asked about helping out somewhere. Susan Whelan (Leicester’s chief executive) said that the club was just about to acquire Leicester’s women’s side (previously independent of Leicester City FC), and suggested I get involved and become an ambassador for them. In the end that’s morphed into coaching the team too, and I’ve really enjoyed the experience. The only downside is that the staff played a tournament recently with the girls and they beat us eight games out of nine! (laughs)
Was the coaching element of it a surprise to you, and something that just evolved?
It was. I’d been quite happy with the ambassadorial role, doing bits and pieces off the pitch, but when Jonathan came and asked if I fancied doing some coaching, I thought ‘Why not?’ And once I was out on the grass, I enjoyed it. I’d done a bit of coaching towards the end of my playing career, working with the U-21s at Bolton, but here I have the opportunity to get involved a lot more, working with individual players and looking at different tactics. And it does help you look at football differently. After 20-plus years of looking purely from an individual’s point of view as a player, now I have to look at it from a coach’s perspective, getting into players’ heads, delivering my message in the right way so that what I’m telling them ends up getting translated out on the pitch.