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The taming of the Shrews?

Leicester Aug 26, 2014
Read
Aug 4, 2014

No sentimentality as Heskey return blocked

Emile Heskey became a club legend during his time at Leicester but will not be making an emotional return to the club this summer.

Leicester hero Emile Heskey is a free agent after leaving Australian side Newcastle Jets this summer and is searching for one last hurrah in English football. Sadly for the sentimentalists, the Foxes aren't remotely interested.

- Jacobs: Leicester's Premier League preview

Bruno -- as Heskey is affectionately known due to his uncanny resemblance to boxer Frank Bruno -- was approached by then Leicester boss Sven-Goran Eriksson in 2011, but any deal was scuppered when Nigel Pearson returned to the club for a second spell

"Leicester is obviously very close to my heart," said Heskey. "But I can't see a deal happening. There was interest from Sven when I was at Aston Villa, but it was made clear to me before I left for Australia that Nigel had other plans."

Heskey, 36, could have been a potent weapon as Leicester strived for promotion to the Premier League, but Pearson is adamant younger blood is needed.

The City manager is far from ageist, though. Last season he put his faith in another golden oldie, Kevin Phillips, who scored some important goals to help Leicester cruise to the title with a club-record 102 points.

However, the reason 41-year-old Phillips was preferred was because of his coaching aspirations. Heskey is far less of a tactician and thus it is not thought that he will ever procure his badges. Instead, he may filter into punditry, and with this in mind he spent the World Cup in Doha with Middle East-owned broadcaster beIN Sports.

PREMIER LEAGUE PREVIEWS

As we count down to kickoff on Aug. 16, ESPN FC previews all 20 teams in this season's competition. Can Burnley, QPR and Leicester stay up? Will the new signings of Alexis Sanchez, Diego Costa and Adam Lallana help usurp Man City's crown? Will Manchester United get back on track under Louis van Gaal?

As long as he's still playing -- and considering that he has openly expressed a desire to return to England -- Heskey will inevitably be linked with his boyhood club. Yet unlike a few years back, there's no substance to these rumours.

So where will Heskey go next? Leeds United is the most likely destination, as they look to fill the void left by last season's top scorer Ross McCormack, who recently made an 11 million-pound switch to Fulham.

The link may make staunch Whites fans cringe, since Heskey is not and has never been a prolific goal scorer. He managed just 10 goals in 42 appearances for Newcastle Jets, in a league well below the standard of the Championship. Even in his prime at Leicester and Liverpool he only averaged about a goal every four games.

Nonetheless, he offers a physical presence in a brutal league, and as a free transfer with reasonable wage demands there's very little to lose in taking a punt on him. But Pearson won't do so for romantic reasons.

Nigel Pearson has been busy in the market, with Leonardo Ulloa the club's record signing.

Leicester already have 8 million-pound record signing Leonardo Ulloa, ex-England striker Dave Nugent, Kiwi Chris Wood and speedy forward Jamie Vardy, so there's just no room for Heskey. Deep down, most Leicester supporters accept that Heskey isn't a Premier League player these days.

He had lightning pace during his pomp and scored 46 goals for the Foxes. In March 2000, just before he left, I remember him scoring in a 5-2 demolition of Sunderland at Filbert Street -- a game in which Stan Collymore got a hat trick.

Leicester looked like a team full of world-beaters, yet just weeks later Heskey went to Liverpool for 11 million pounds, Martin O'Neill departed for Celtic, and Collymore broke his leg against Derby. It was a slippery slide to relegation and administration from there.

Heskey has always had his critics. He might look like Bruno, and those who question his talent or commitment argue that he hits the deck a whole lot easier than Frank did. But those who know him will attest to an affable, hard-working footballer who is a tremendous role model and gentleman.

It will be intriguing to see who gives Heskey one final chance. Given the qualities he possesses, he should consider staying the game after he hangs up his boots. If he is to return to Leicester it would only now be in a coaching or ambassadorial capacity -- two roles in which he would really excel.

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