Emile Heskey on fulfilling a dream by playing for Liverpool at Anfield
'We like to think we’re further forward than we are': Emile Heskey on the lack of opportunities for young coaches, Raheem Sterling and fulfilling a dream by playing for Liverpool at Anfield
Emile Heskey is open to management but wants coaching experience first
He insists that there needs to be more opportunities made available for coaches
The ex-Liverpool striker said football felt like just a job once money was involved
Heskey spoke at the launch of the fifth Cancer Research UK London Winter Run
By Amitai Winehouse For Mailonline
Published: 19:47 GMT, 24 January 2019 | Updated: 09:22 GMT, 25 January 2019
When you ask Emile Heskey about management, he only has one reply. ‘Coaching first’. Time and again it crops up as we swing through the streets of central London, and the reply is always the same.
This is no primadonna. An FA Cup, four League Cups, a UEFA Cup, 62 England caps – forget it. Heskey knows the pathway he should tread if he wants to do it right – that is, if he wants to do it at all.
‘You’re dealing with so many characters whereas when you were playing it’s just you’, he says. ‘I wouldn’t mind getting into coaching at some stage.’
Emile Heskey is adamant he will want to coach first before taking on a management role
But the former Liverpool and Leicester man has a problem. As far as he can see it, the road is not really there: ‘If clubs want you in at the club, you’ll get a pathway. If they don’t, you won’t.
‘You can do all of the badges you want but you still have to be given that first step in the door.
‘Chelsea are doing it brilliantly. Jody Morris, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole… they give others the opportunity to come down and give back.
‘We have a lot to give. We’ve been at clubs for a long time, so we have a lot of knowledge, so why not tap into that?’
There have been many calls to increase opportunities for BAME managers in football
Heskey spoke at the launch of the fifth annual Cancer Research UK London Winter Run
At this stage, it’s impossible not to ask about the difference between the opportunities given to black former professionals and their contemporaries.
The recent hiring of Sol Campbell at Macclesfield brought the conversation to the fore again. While Lampard was given a chance at Championship Derby, Campbell had to drop to the bottom of the Football League.
He has since won five out of 10 games and taken a team that seemed doomed to the National League to the brink of exiting the relegation zone.
But Campbell is only the eighth black and minority ethnic (BAME) manager in the Football League. Over a quarter of players in the English game are from a BAME background, which shows the disparity.
The former England international feels that racism has not been completely dealt with
Heskey, speaking as we travel on an old Routemaster bus at an activation for the fifth annual Cancer Research UK London Winter Run, said: ‘It is giving you an opportunity and a chance to show your ability. Statistics will show that you are not really given an opportunity to show your ability.
‘The likes of Darren (Moore), Chris Hughton, Keith Curle, Keith Alexander when he was alive, them doing well has put us in a position to go for it.
‘We’re still finding it hard. Sol doing well has shown us that we are more than capable of holding our own.’
'Sol Campbell doing well shows us we are more than capable of holding our own,’ said Heskey
And this just feeds into something Heskey feels about society at large: ‘We like to think we’re further forward than we are. Statistics will show that we’re not.’
Again, there was a recent reassessment. The incident of alleged racist abuse Raheem Sterling was subjected to at Stamford Bridge demonstrated the attitudes some football fans still hold.
‘I did an interview recently telling people my stories,’ Heskey says, ‘and they were like "what, you’re lying". I’m like, "I’m not lying, it happened. You don’t understand it".
‘John Barnes put it brilliantly. He said we haven't really dealt with racism, we’ve just told them they can't be racist in the stadium.
‘A few stupid ones will go ahead and do it. The clever ones will keep their mouths shut and come home with the same viewpoint.’
Heskey hopes Raheem Sterling's attitude to calling out racism can have a lasting impact
Sterling spoke out. He called out media in this country, including this website, for the role they played in fostering this outlook.
Heskey hopes it will have an impact: ‘Society is more important than stadiums. In stadiums you are generally allowed to say what you want.
‘That’s why it happens. Society needs to do a lot more.’
Not that our chat avoided his own career. Heskey was once the bright young bolt in blue at Leicester, a new type of footballer plunged into a strong dressing room.
The stories of what happened under Martin O’Neill’s watch are famous, with the Northern Irishman tolerating fun as long as results followed. They did, with two League Cup wins coming after promotion was won through the first division play-offs.
Heskey has fond memories as a Leicester player after a promotion and two League Cup wins
Heskey recalls: ‘When you’re in it, you think it’s normal. Looking back now you think, “How did we put in the performances that we put in?”
‘It was just typical 80s and 90s football. A lot of drinking and enjoyment.
‘We’d have Wednesday off, so Tuesday we were drinking a lot. Or a lot of the lads were. I was young then so I never really indulged in all of that.
‘There was a different age group that I couldn’t necessarily relate to but it was going on.’
Then came the move to Liverpool. Heskey was a boyhood fan of the Reds and asking him about his first time walking out at Anfield brings a smile to his face. ‘It was amazing. It was a great feeling and achievement as well, knowing it was something I wanted to do.
‘It was something I believed I could do but to do it is… I’d played there a few times for Leicester but going there as a Liverpool player was something different.’
The target man also achieved a childhood dream by stepping out at Anfield for Liverpool
Now he has a reasonable outlook on his career. He still thinks of himself as the Heskey that broke through when he imagines himself playing. There’s a reason behind that: ‘When you ask any player when they enjoyed their football, it was before the politics – when they just played, never thought about it.
‘That’s the best time. Players will even say their youths, no worry, they just went and enjoyed themselves. When the money becomes involved, and everything else, it is just a job. Like any other.’
Not that he didn’t enjoy it. We end with that question and his answer is succinct: ‘One hundred per cent. I won trophies. When you’re a young lad, even as far as Sunday league, that’s what it was all about.
‘I was lucky enough. I won four League Cups, FA Cup, UEFA Cup, Super Cup and two Charity Shields. I went to two World Cups and two Euros. It’s not bad.’
Now, if the opportunity arises and he’s convinced he wants it, coaching could give him more success to reflect on.
Emile Heskey is supporting the Cancer Research UK London Winter Run, London’s largest 10K running event.
Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd
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