🎤 Emile Heskey Exclusive Interview with OLBG

Updated: 86 Football

Exclusive interview with Emile Heskey: Eberechi Eze can be like 2004 Wayne Rooney at Euro 2024, Eddie Howe should replace Gareth Southgate, Jack Grealish snub is shocking, Tammy Abraham is a good fit for Aston Villa, Liverpool can get £100m for Salah and should sign Michael Olise

🎤 Emile Heskey Exclusive Interview with OLBG
In this article: Euro 2024
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Editor-In-Chief with 20 years experience covering the betting angles to breaking news stories. Daily slots player, Portsmouth fan and League Snooker Player

Euro 2024 Interview

Speaking exclusively to OLBG in our football interview series, former England star Emile Heskey has tipped a fearless  Eberechi Eze to take Euro 2024 by storm like a young Wayne Rooney did in 2004.

Heskey has also backed Eddie Howe as the right man to replace Gareth Southgate as the next England Manager after the tournament while expressing his shock at Jack Grealish's snub.

The former Premier League striker has backed Tammy Abraham to be a very good fit for Aston Villa ahead of a potential return to England.

Heskey has also told Liverpool they could sell Mohamed Salah for £100million this summer and bring in Michael Olise from Crystal Palace as his replacement.

Q: Who would you like to see in England’s attacking positions at Euro 2004

EH: “I’d love to see Eberechi Eze start for England and potentially Anthony Gordon too, he will keep that width and that’s a key thing when you have two eights in the middle of the pitch.

“You can't keep having people just keep coming into that central area because it becomes very predictable and easy to block. When you have players like Anthony Gordon and Bukayo Saka you’ve got two players who love running in behind and if you were to ask any defender they would admit that it’s their worst nightmare.

“In terms of Eze, he had a fantastic season and rolling off the back of that you never know what's going to happen, especially with someone who's ultra confident. 

“The last time we had that was probably Wayne Rooney in 2004 where everyone said that he was too young or too inexperienced but he doesn't care. He just wants to go and play. He wants to go and bash people around. He wanted to go up against the best players in the world.

“These are the sort of stuff that we love to see. Players that play with no fear, they just go out and just perform. I think Eze has got the possibility to do that, whether it be as a substitute or a starter.”

Q: Who could replace Gareth Southgate after Euro 2024?

On his way out after Euro 2024?
Image: Shutterstock/Ivica Drusany

EH: “First and foremost, I think for Gareth, I think he's done a fantastic job bringing the squad together. 

“We all talk about when I was playing, when I was in the England squad about the togetherness, the camaraderie, It was kind of fractured. It doesn't look like it is since he's joined. 

“He's been lucky because he was actually with a lot of them with the under 21s. So we kind of knew their characters and how to build them together.

“Then taking us to a semi-final and a final, which is fantastic, he brought the nation together. It hasn't been together for a very, very long time in the way that we see it now. 

“So you've got to take your hat off to him for that. And he's done a fantastic job. There will always be critics. There will always be people saying, shoulda, coulda, woulda.

Gareth has done a fantastic job uniting the England squad. Unlike the fractured camaraderie of my playing days, he's brought the team together, leveraging his experience with the U21s. Taking us to a semi-final and a final, he's brought the nation together like never before. Critics will always exist, but he's stuck to his principles and achieved great results.

Emile Heskey Praises Gareth Southgate and Considers Eddie Howe for England Manager Role 🏆

“But one thing you've got to say is he's always stuck by what he believes. And that is the key thing. I've watched managers change their structure, change their formation, change their team going on what others have said. 

“He hasn't done that. He stuck to his guns and stuck to what he wanted, and has taken us to a semi-final and a final. So you've got to take your hat off him for that. Next steps.

“Eddie Howe for me. What I will say is being an international manager is very, very difficult, especially if you've been a club manager for so long, because being a club manager, you've got them 24/7 all the time. You're moulding them into what you want. 

“Now you're taking different philosophies from all different parts of the world and the country and you've got to bring them all together.

Managerial rising star Eddie Howe - Good enough for England?

“As a coach, you're always thinking on the field, on the field, on the field, but after the time, after them are not going to be on the field because they've come from their club, they've played on the Sunday, played on the Monday, you've got a game on the Friday. 

“How do you get them in with the way that you train in? You might only get them for one training session, one real training session. So it's going to be, it's very, very challenging as an international manager.

“That's something new to Eddie but he’s very meticulous on the training field as Newcastle manager and making sure his players understand what he wants and going through it in routine, routine, routine. 

“And then having them for 10 days or just seven days and trying to get them to understand what you want is very difficult.”

Q: How should Gareth Southgate’s England set up at Euro 2024?

EH: “We've got so many attack-minded and fluid midfielders, it really doesn't sit well with me to say that we're going to sit with two holding and only one joining in with the front three.

“I would put two attacking players in there and have Declan Rice sitting. Defensively, I don't think we're as strong as we have been over the years but this is international football

“If you're on that pitch as an international player, you should be able to deal with certain scenarios. So I would have one sitting but I think that Gareth Southgate will go with Trent Alexander-Arnold next to Rice.

“I’d just play Rice with Bellingham and Foden in front of him, but have Foden as the wider player. Don't get me wrong, he's a fantastic player and has shown he can adapt.

“Foden will do well wherever he plays.”

For Euro 2024, I'd have Declan Rice sitting with Bellingham and Foden ahead. Our attacking talent shouldn't be wasted with two holding midfielders. Despite our defensive challenges, international players should handle it. Southgate might pair Rice with Trent Alexander-Arnold, but Foden can adapt anywhere. I was shocked to see Jack Grealish left out. We lack a dribbler like him in the squad. At Villa, everything revolved around Jack, but at City, he's developed differently under Pep. He remains a unique talent.

💬 Emile Heskey on England's Euro 2024 Setup and Jack Grealish's Exclusion

Q: Were you shocked to see Jack Grealish left out of the squad?

EH: “I was shocked to see that Jack Grealish was left out of the England squad.

“We have Anthony Gordon and Jarrod Bowen but we haven't really got anyone who can drive with a ball like Jack Grealish when he's on point, we haven't got anyone who can really dribble like him. 

“Having said that, It's a totally different scenario at Manchester City to Aston Villa.

“At Villa, it was all about winning the ball back and giving it to Jack. Whereas at City, you've got 11 players because the goalkeeper gets involved as well, that is just how they play.

“I think he's just developed a different part of his game now and within that structure that Pep has given him.”

Q: Could Jack Grealish return to Aston Villa?

EH: “I think Aston Villa have moved on from Jack Grealish and I think Jack has moved on too.

“Maybe if you want one last hurrah, which would be really good for the fans and really good for the club in a couple of years then he can come back, but at this moment in time he's doing what he's doing he's still got a fantastic role to play at City in a fantastic squad.

“When you're looking at the competitions that they play, not one player can play all their games, so they're going to need two teams. It’s very, very draining when you're playing that many games. So he's going to play plenty.

“He's got to keep himself fit. He's had a few injuries and when you’re coming back from injuries, it's not like a light switch where you're going to flick it back on and everything's just going to be hunky-dory. 

“You're going to be rolling back into what you were like before. As we saw with James Maddison, he actually acknowledged that it's going to take your time. 

“It's going to take you probably a month, a month and a half to get back into the swing of things. And I still think Jack's got a pivotal role to play within the Man City dressing room.”

Aston Villa and Jack Grealish have moved on. A return could be great in a few years, but for now, he's vital at Man City. With their packed schedule, he'll play plenty but must stay fit. Recovering from injuries takes time, as seen with James Maddison. Jack still has a pivotal role at City

💬 Emile Heskey on Jack Grealish and Aston Villa

Q: Would you prioritise Jude Bellingham or Phil Foden at Euro 2024?

EH: “The reason I would play Jude Bellingham in the number 10 position is because of Harry Kane, who likes to drop in which condenses the midfield area and leaves space in behind.

“Erling Haaland has been criticised because he doesn't get involved but that's not his job. His job is to play higher up. I played with one of the best at doing that number 10 role in Wayne Rooney.

“My job as a forward was to stretch the pitch and make him create as much space as possible for him. I would make runs in behind knowing that I didn’t want the ball, but if you do put it in there then the defender starts to question themselves. 

“So then they start taking one step, two step, three steps back, and I'll keep pushing them so I can create that space for them. So in the same sense, Kane likes to come into that area and likes to demand the ball in there. 

“So the reason I say Bellingham, is because Bellingham doesn't mind running in behind. You've got to have someone doing that run the other way, that's the key thing for me.”

Q: What is your prediction for England vs Serbia?

EH: “I think when we go into any game, we've got to be very confident. 

“Looking at Spain's group, Spain, Croatia, Italy, Albania, then look at our group and the Serbia game, it's a tough game. But again, when you're going into these games, you’ve got to expect us to win them. We've got to be very confident. 

“The thing that we've got to do as well is to be relaxed, that is the key thing. There's a lot of pressure but as long as you're relaxed, we're going to win that game because of the qualities that we've got. 

“But if we go in there and we've got too much going on in our minds. We've got too much going on here, there and everywhere. 

“We're thinking, let's think about the game. Let's be positive about the game. We've got the best players. There is talk about their strikers. Are any of them better than Harry Kane? No. 

“So we've got that. We know we've got it, but we've got to be very focused, be relaxed, be confident and play with that confidence. 

“We've seen it before. Wayne Rooney going into a game, everyone's talking about France, Wayne Rooney bosses them all over the place and makes them look like little kids. 

“That's how we've got to play. We've got to play with that confidence. I do see us conceding goals , that's my only problem, but I do see a score of quite a few. 

“I think it’ll be 3-1 to England.”

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Q: What do you think of Wayne Rooney’s appointment at Plymouth?

EH: “Wayne Rooney is a student of the game. When you go into club interviews, you don't go into them blindly. So he'd have done all his homework, he'd have been watching all the different leagues, done the research on the squad and thought about how he believes they can play. 

“He'd have learnt quite a lot from being manager at Birmingham because the reality is just there's a philosophy that you want and then there's players that you've got and they might not match. 

“So you've got to figure out how to make that match and blend. 

New Manager at Plymouth Wayne Rooney

“I also played at Birmingham after leaving Liverpool, from playing alongside Steve Gerrard, Michael Owen, Danny Murphy, Patrik Berger and Gary McAllister, and no disrespect to the players at Birmingham, you've got to figure things out very quickly.

“I think he's done his homework so I think it'll be good for him as Plymouth manager but it will be tough. They've got some good goalscorers though down there who will now be working with arguably one of our best ever goalscorers, I'm sure he'll do well.”

Q: What do you make of Manchester United’s treatment of Erik ten Hag?

EH: “Unfortunately there's no right way or wrong way to do things in football. There's just processes that clubs do. 

“In my mind, it being found out that you're touting others for the job is wrong, but it might just be the way that they do it. 

“As a manager, you're coming back to a club and you've realised that they've spoken to other managers. So why is it back to you then? Is it because they didn't want you?

Editorial credit: kivnl / Shutterstock.com

“So all these things will be going on in your mind. The thing for Eric ten Hag is that he's won two trophies as Man Utd manager. He's won trophies whether it’s been a good season or not.

“They're not the team that they were under Sir Alex Ferguson where they were dominant, but they are still massive club wise. Ten Hag has got to really cement and nail down how he wants to play because I haven't seen that yet, that’s the key thing.

“We all talk about the United way and I think he needs to cement his way and cement it now, or he'll be gone very quickly because no one really knows what style of football they are trying to play at this moment in time.”

Q: What do you make of Jhon Duran’s links to Chelsea?

EH: “I quite like Jhon Duran but he hasn’t played enough since coming in at Aston Villa. But he has been lively and very direct when he has played. He always wants to have shots at goal and maybe that is because he is trying to show the manager what he is capable of.

“He’s very direct and that's probably why Chelsea management are looking at him to help bolster their forward line, Chelsea have been blessed with forwards over the years but the pressure is on straight away.

“I was speaking to Joe Cole recently and he was telling me about Didier Drogba. For the first two years, he wasn’t great at Chelsea, then in the third year he was on fire.

Duran is lively and direct at Villa, showing promise. Chelsea's interest is no surprise, but patience is key. Like Drogba, players need time to shine. Nicolas Jackson, despite missed chances, can score 20+ goals with confidence. Rivalry will push them to excel.

Emile Heskey on Jhon Duran and Chelsea's Attack 🚀

‘So we've got to give these players a little bit of time. Nicolas Jackson still scored 17 goals last season despite missing a lot of chances. So with a bit more composure, with a bit more confidence, with a bit more belief, you're talking about a guy that can score you 20 goals, 20 plus goals. 

“But bringing in a rivalry will push these players as well. Because I think with Didier, Nicolas Anelka came in and that really spurred them both on to either play together or to fight for a spot.

“So I think always having that competition, especially at Chelsea, especially at top clubs, it really spurs you on.“

Q: Would Tammy Abraham be a good signing at Aston Villa?

EH: “The thing with Tammy Abraham is that he has got European experience having won the Europa Conference League under Jose Mourinho at Roma.

“I think it could work for Abraham at Aston Villa, he’s been at the club before so he knows the club and the fans know what he can do.

“Aston Villa would actually be a very good fit if he wants to come back to England, he has had a bad injury so it would be good to see him return to playing consistently.

“But he is a fantastic player who started at one of the toughest clubs in Chelsea and has gone on to win trophies elsewhere and made a name for himself, he would be a good fit back at Villa.”

Q: Would you sell Mohamed Salah if you were in charge at Liverpool?

EH: “Selling Mohamed Salah this summer is up for debate, I still think Liverpool could get £100 million for him.

“It's a difficult one. The reality is when we talk about Mohamed Salah I see some fans wanting to sell him but even when his form is up and down, he still scores 20 goals a season.

Salah for Sale?

“It’s difficult to get rid of someone who's giving you those numbers year in, year out, unless you know what you're bringing in.

“Liverpool have been spoiled in the past, we had Sadio Mane as well. And then Roberto Firmino who put it all together and still got 15 goals a season as well. 

“Now it's like, okay, what have we got? Darwin Nunez, you've got to give him a little bit of time. We all know that it's not going to happen in the first season. There's very few that hit the ground running straight away. 

“Arguably the best player to play in the Premier League is Thierry Henry. That first season wasn't great. You've got to give him a chance.”

Q: Who would you choose to replace Mohamed Salah at Liverpool?

EH: “To replace Mohamed Salah at Liverpool I like the look of Michael Olise. He is creative and has that free flowing style of play. But having said that, he’s got so many suitors.

“There are also many clubs and some that can actually splurge a little bit more than others. So you have to look at PSG, with him being French as well.

“But he would be the one that I would choose for Liverpool because he would bring the goals as well. Jarrad Bowen as well is very direct. But again, I think Liverpool probably need two wingers.

“I think Liverpool need two wingers and a forward.”

Q: Are you backing Birmingham to earn promotion next season?

EH: “I think Birmingham City can take League One by storm, 100%. They’ve got the new manager in Chris Davies so he will need time to work with the team and try and hit the ground running.

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“He's worked under some of the best managers out there. He's worked under Brendan Rodgers, he's worked under Jose Mourinho and more recently with Ange Postecoglu, so I think they've got a very, very good chance. 

“They've arguably got the best infrastructure there, ready to just bounce straight back up. When you look at Ipswich, maybe they could even do the same by bouncing back up and then go straight back up into the Premier League as well.

“I do believe they've got a really good manager in terms of his philosophy and they've got a fantastic support network in the sense that the fan base is getting behind them.

“They're a realistic fan base as well. So they'll get behind them, they'll be pushing them for them to get back up straight away.”

Q: What are you expecting from Leicester in the Premier League next season?

Leicester faces a tough season. Despite having a Premier League squad, they need reinforcements. With potential FFP issues and a points deduction, recruitment is crucial. Vardy stays, but they need another forward and must keep Dewsbury-Hall. Adding 4-6 players is essential.

Emile Heskey on Leicester City's Tough Road Ahead 🦊

EH: “It's going to be very tough, very tough for Leicester next season because although you can say they have a Premier League squad, it’s a bottom half of the Premier League squad.

“They will need to bring players in but how are they going to do that? It looks like they might be getting a points deduction but then you need to spend more.

“The problem with FFP is that it tends to hit the smaller clubs harder when you’re trying to battle with the big names and stay in the league.

“They have re-signed Jamie Vardy but I think they need another forward with Kelechi Iheanacho leaving, they’re fine with their wingers, and they need to keep hold of Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall.

“Nucleus-wise, they've got a decent squad, but I still think they need to add four, five, six players.”

Q: What do you make of the job Shaun Maloney has done at Wigan?

EH: “Shaun Maloney has done really well since coming in at Wigan as manager. It's not an easy club to go into in the sense that there wasn't money there. 

“I know everyone wants to bring their new players in and bring this in and turn around philosophy, but when you haven't got the money there to do it, it's very, very tough. 

“He's done a fantastic job going in there and that comes from belief. He's probably brought the belief that they can go out there and perform, can go out there and win games. 

“The only thing now is that they've got to perform on a weekly basis, not just every now and again. That's going to keep them out of the bottom three, bottom four. They've got to do it on a weekly basis, try and get themselves into the top half and get towards promotion.”

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Emile Heskey profile

Emile William Ivanhoe Heskey was born on January 11, 1978, in Leicester, Leicestershire. He began his football journey at the age of nine when he joined the Leicester City academy. Heskey quickly showcased his talent and made his first-team debut at the age of 17 in a Premier League match against Queens Park Rangers on March 8, 1995. Despite Leicester’s relegation to the First Division, Heskey’s impressive performances secured him a regular spot in the team. His contribution was crucial in helping Leicester achieve promotion back to the Premier League, notably winning the First Division play-off final against Crystal Palace in 1996.

Heksye earned some 62 Caps for England scoring 7 times

Club Career

Heskey's career took off at Leicester City where he won the League Cup twice, in 1997 and 2000. In 2000, he made a record £11 million move to Liverpool, making significant contributions including winning the FA Cup in 2001 and forming a notable strike partnership with Michael Owen. After his stint at Liverpool, Heskey moved to Birmingham City in 2004 and subsequently to Wigan Athletic in 2006 for a record £5.5 million fee. In 2009, he joined Aston Villa, with his time there highlighted by a goal on his debut. Heskey's career also took him to Australia, where he played for Newcastle Jets in the A-League, before concluding his career in England with Bolton Wanderers.

International Career

Heskey began his international career representing England at various youth levels before making his senior debut in 1999 against Hungary. He played for England in several major tournaments, including UEFA Euro 2000 and 2004, and the 2002 and 2010 FIFA World Cups. Despite criticisms over his goal-scoring record, Heskey was appreciated for his physical presence and ability to assist fellow strikers. He scored notable goals, including one in the 5-1 victory over Germany in 2001. Heskey retired from international football after the 2010 World Cup, having earned 62 caps and scored seven goals.

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