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Feb 12, 2013

Heskey loving life Down Under

Emile Heskey may not always have been the darling of fans in England but his presence seems to be much more celebrated in Australia.

The former Liverpool, Aston Villa and Wigan striker is currently on the books of Newcastle Jets in the A-League after moving as a free agent at the end of the last Premier League season.

With eight goals in his 18 games to date Heskey is enjoying his status as the club's 'marquee' player, who sits outside the usual salary cap.

And the 35-year-old is finding his presence alone is enough to earn him plaudits from football fans Down Under, who are also delighted to see former Juve legend Alessandro Del Piero plying his trade in their top flight.

"The reception for all the 'marquee' players in this league seems to be exceptional," he said in an interview with the Daily Mail.

"It's been amazing because the main thing that people say is thank you for coming here. It seems a bit crazy that they think like that, it's a bit of a privilege to be playing here in that respect.

"It's not something I have always experienced."

Not that everyone has forgotten his contribution in the Premier League, and for his country. A fan in a Stoke shirt approached Heskey at his local bank recently to thank him for his role in England's famous 5-1 win over Germany in 2001.

"It was nice he remembered, that is certainly one of my best memories in football," Heskey added.

The former Birmingham striker wanted a move abroad after his contract at Villa expired and took advice from other Premier League strikers who made the move to Australia.

"I think Robbie Fowler suggested me to them and I spoke to him, Dwight Yorke and Michael Bridges (his current team-mate) and they didn't have a bad word to say about playing here," he said.

"The CEO came to England and sold it to me. Michael has been here a long time and we've known each other since playing for England at Under 17 level.

"I've enjoyed it. I always wanted to play abroad, but I'll admit I didn't think it would be Australia."

The Jets are currently seventh in the ten-team league while Heskey's scoring record is close to one in two.

He is getting rave reviews for his performances, unlike in England when he was much maligned despite being depended on by a string of top managers.

And he says some people are too quick to criticise players or put them under intense scrutiny in the Premier League.

"You've got to grow a thick skin and not feel sorry for yourself," he said. "I know how the game works and it's not a problem for me.

'I always just got on with life, but you do wonder how some people deal with it. For some players, I think criticism stops them going as far as they should do in the game.

"It's easy to underestimate how much scrutiny players are under in England. Look at someone like Wayne Rooney - having to deal with it since he was 16.

"I've seen players who've had just the odd game for England and the scrutiny has really affected them. Maybe one bad game and it makes them go backwards because they are unable to deal with the pressure. Clubs have to think hard about this side of things."

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