Go Get 'Em Emile...
Right gentlemen, I have decided that someone should have the balls to take that old proverbial bull by the horns, have the gumption to stand and battle against the flow, remain undaunted and unharmed by the brickbats that will be directed his way, be prepared to duck and dive, even weave where necessary, in order to avoid the barbed abuse, the ripe tomatoes, the rotten eggs that will be mockingly hurled in his direction.
So fellow Vital Villans, here goes. I am coming out. Baring my soul, and becoming what my wife and daughters have accused me of being for years, completely unfashionable.
Are you ready? Emile Heskey is well on his way to winning me over.
Now I know that those words will be received in mocking disbelief from the fans of Big John Carew, he who is supposedly bigger than me and you (well he's not bigger than me actually, I'm 6'4' and 220 lbs, and if truth be told I'm probably bigger than JC in another area or two, but now is not the time and/or place to discuss/compare that particular appendage, so we'll gracefully move on).
Emile of course is Big John's main rival for the central striking role at Brummagem B6, and while Carew can do no wrong in the eyes of many of the Villa Park regulars, Emile finds himself at the other end of the spectrum, in that he can do no right.
Let me point out here and now, that this isn't an exercise in knocking our Norwegian striker, on the contrary. I too like Carew, particularly on the days when he's both fit and raring to lead the opponents defence a merry dance, days when he genuinely looks as if he's one of Europe's very best centre-forwards. Sadly though, those days are very few and far between. All too often we get to witness an uninspired offering, from a player who gives off the impression of wishing that he were anywhere else rather than out on a football pitch, sporting the claret and blue, and earning a well paid living as a premiership footballer.
However John's poorer performances and disinterested showings are only too readily overlooked, and quickly forgotten, because of his ability to play to the crowd, a crowd that are only too willing to croon the 'John Carew' song at the slightest opportunity, and pay reverence, respect, and 100% allegiance to their hero at the mere drop of a hat. Yes, I've sung it too, and very melodically I might add.
Poor old Emile has never stood a chance really, has he?
I readily admit to not actually greeting the arrival of Heskey with open arms, back in January of 2009. I wasn't jumping through hoops. The signing hardly inspired me, or gave me confidence that he was the addition to the thinly stretched squad that we so desperately needed to keep our season on track. One new arrival couldn't/wouldn't cut it, particularly when that player was someone I had barely rated over the years.
John Gregory had told us that Heskey went down way too easily, like a sack of spuds in fact. And as we all know only too well, mud all too easily sticks, and often helps cloud any later appraisal or opinion adjustment.
Emile has hardly been showered with plaudits down the years, lets face it, all to often he's been the easy target for abuse and derision. He's a big lad though, he can take it. He has took it. The criticism has fell to his feet like water off a ducks back. He keeps bouncing back, impressing the managers, both at club and international level, who see fit to place their faith, trust, and belief in him.
I could well understand why Martin O'Neill should look to Emile to keep our progress going. He was a player that the manager knew very well, MON knew his abilities and his capabilities too, and yes, to balance things out, he was well aware of Heskey's supposed failings. The manager needed a back-up/direct competition for the frustratingly all too often unavailable (for one reason or another) John Carew, and in reality, there weren't too many options out there.
Emile had to have an idea as to what he was letting himself in for in moving to Villa Park, after all, as an ex-bluenose he was hardly going to be warmly received by the Holte End faithful. Not quite sure though why being an ex-bluenose should ever enter into the equation, after all, people so readily seem willing to overlook the fact that on that memorable evening in Rotterdam when we became the Champions Of Europe, the match winning goal was scored by a certain Peter Withe, once of Birmingham City fame.
Emile scored on his debut at Fratton Park, but failed to win the knockers and/or the doubters over throughout the remainder of the campaign, and despite enjoying a decent enough pre-2009-10 season (lets forget the sending off over in The Peace Cup tournament in sunny Spain), it was still John Carew who was expected to be Gabby's main strike partner up front once the serious premier league business got underway. And arguably, quite rightly so.
And so we jump to Turf Moor, home of Burnley Football Club, a game that I, and no doubt a few of you other good chaps out there were unlucky enough to have to suffer. A completely abysmal offering from our lads, over-run, outplayed, out-thought and out-fought, a point rescued only thanks to a late equaliser from substitute Emile Heskey. A point we didn't deserved, but hey, who cares?
That draw helped I think get our campaign back up and running. Defeat there, and I believe that we'd have been at the crossroads. Emile's goal also I believe saw him finally step up to the plate, gain some much needed confidence, and start to win over a few of his detractors.
Recent performances, while far from earth-shattering, have clearly shown the important role that Emile can play for the club. He has a lot to offer, not only to our beloved AVFC, but also to England, out in South Africa come June, and hopefully July.
We all wish he'd increase his goalscoring tally, yes of course we do, but it probably aint gonna happen. We knew we weren't getting a Peter Withe, Andy Gray, Gerry Hitchens, or even an Andy Lochhead, when we signed him from Wigan Athletic. So lets just focus on his good points. Celebrate the positives. He holds the ball up better than Carew, brings others into the game better, and provides space into which our speedier youngsters can thrive and flourish. Wins a lot more flick on's than does Big JC also.
So there you have it gentlemen. I'm not trying to have you believing that Emile is the best centre-forward ever seen at Villa Park, far from it. I'm not attempting to, neither am I interested in, changing your way of thinking.
All I'm saying is that Emile (and John for that matter) has a very important role to play between now and seasons end. He's up to the task, more than capable of playing a full part in ensuring that we experience and enjoy a successful season. Giving him a little bit of support when things aren't perhaps going for him as they should, is surely one of the main reasons that we turn up in our droves for, to support and encourage, and cheer on our lads. Both individually, and as a team.
See you all at White Hart Lane tomorrow.
Go Get 'Em Emile! Heskey For England!!! One Emile Heskey, there's only.............