Emile Heskey is an England footballing legend and one of the most prolific players of his generation. He rose through the ranks of his home team, Leicester City, before making his League debut in 1995, which led to a 21-year career, spanning clubs across England and Australia, during which Heskey won eight major trophies. After his club-record move to Liverpool, he was part of the team that secured a treble in 2001. He also earned 62 caps for the national side and will live in the memories of every England fan for scoring in the 5-1 defeat of Germany. In September 2019, Heskey described his career in his autobiography ‘Even Heskey Scored’, providing a critical insight into the life of an elite athlete. He is married to Chantelle and has seven children.
1 What is your proudest achievement on the pitch?
I have to say scoring in the 5-1 game against Germany. It’s the one that everyone remembers, it’s the one that I get stopped in the street for every single time, so I have to say that. But, at times, it’s just about making it, as a footballer. That first step I took onto the football pitch as a professional footballer – you can’t get any prouder than that, because I might not have made it past that, but at least I got to that stage. Making my debut as well, in March 1995 against Queen’s Park Rangers in the Premier League.
2 What is your proudest achievement off the pitch?
Having kids. Bringing life into this world and raising them in a certain way that they’re very respectful. I have seven kids named Jamaal (aged 21), Micah (20), Liyah (18), Jaden (14), Reigan (11), Milanna (4), Mendez (2). Like I say, one driving and one just about walking.
3 What has been the biggest obstacle in your career that you have found?
The biggest obstacle in my career is probably believing in myself – wholeheartedly. I knew I was good, but believing in yourself, wholeheartedly knowing that you are good, and you are better than what people perceive you to be.
4 Who do you think will win the Premier League this year?
Liverpool. It is going to be a difficult one to overhaul, you would need them to have a real big dip, and you need Leicester and Manchester City to go on a real, massive run. Leicester’s on a huge run at this moment in time which is fantastic, but they’ll need to step it up again and you need Liverpool to go on a real slump and I can’t see that.
5 Who has been your biggest influence?
Manager-wise, I would say two people: Martin O’Neill and Gérard Houllier, two managers that gave me the ability to just go out there and perform and enjoy it as well, but also to be able to learn while I’m on the job, because it is a job.
6 If you were Prime Minister, what one thing would you change?
It would be difficult to just change one thing because there are so many! We talk about immigration - that’s the thing, us, America, we were brought off that. When you need labour of people you bring in immigrants. They did it in Brazil, they did it in Australia – they are still doing it in Australia – so everywhere needs all this, but we get strung up on letting people in our country.
7 Do you think racism has increased or decreased in the years that you have been involved in football?
It hasn’t gone anywhere. It hasn’t done anything. It’s always been there, but it’s just that you’re possibly not allowed to be as open with it now as you were before. I put in my book that I was chased, I was spat at, I had all sorts going on – me.
8 At what age did you experience this?
Football-wise from probably about the age of 15, 16? Actually, before that as I was about 13 or 14 when I got chased from Leicester, going to watch a game, got chased from Leicester City and the ironic thing with that – fast-forward four years and that guy could have been chanting my name from the stands, which is weird. It’s a strange thought for me. But no, it hasn’t gone, it hasn’t changed.
9 We’ve discussed racism in football, but what about in our wider communities?
A lot of migrants did go back, but then didn’t feel the connection and came back here again. My mum and dad were lucky because they did feel the connection, but a lot of people go back and they don’t feel the connection even though they might have a better life over there. Their connection is here. They’ve got their kids, they’ve got their grand kids, they’ve got everything here. My mum and dad came over when they were 10. They went back in their 60s…that’s 50 years.
10 If you were marooned on a desert island, which historical figure would you spend your time with?
I’ll possibly go with someone like Martin Luther King or Mandela to get to understand what was going on in their time and what was going on in their minds. Great minds, to be honest, because even some of the stuff they said back then – they resonate now. They had it hard in their time, but they come out as great people, so how? why?