Heskey quits England (so will a nation rejoice?)

Forward who divided opinion quits international game on same day as France's Thierry Henry

It ended in a blaze of anonymity. When the final whistle went in Bloemfontein to signal England's embarrassed exit from the World Cup finals, the No 21, in his long-sleeved red shirt, bowed his head and pressed his fingers to the bridge of his nose as if seeking to relieve a nagging pain. He had been on the pitch at the Free State Stadium for 19 minutes and had made next to no impact; Emile Heskey's last hurrah.

Yesterday's announcement by Heskey that he was calling time on his international career may have plunged a nation into mourning, but Scotland have had enough laughs at their neighbour's expense over the last few weeks to get over it. The decision ends an England career that began 11 years ago on a spring evening in Budapest and has meandered through 62 caps, two World Cup finals, two European Championship finals, six managers and seven goals.

It is that last figure that will be held against him. It is one fewer than Jose Luis Chilavert of Paraguay managed and he kept goal. There were moments in Bloemfontein when a familiar defiant song arose from the massed ranks in red and white: "5-1 and even Heskey scored."

It was nine years ago in Munich that Heskey scored the first of his three competitive goals for his country on England's night of nights (and false dawn of false dawns as it turned out). In the 2002 World Cup finals he scored against Denmark and in the qualifiers for South Africa against Kazakhstan. The others came in friendlies; against Malta, Spain, South Africa and, after six years without an international goal, against Slovakia. There will be those who hold Heskey up as all that was flawed with the ill-named "golden generation"; a striker who couldn't score goals.

Yesterday also saw a true striking force of a true golden generation call it a day, with Thierry Henry ending his French career after 51 goals in 123 games. Henry won the World Cup and European Championship with France, but there have been fewer highlights recently. His handball against Ireland that assisted France's passage to South Africa and their subsequent implosion made for an ignominious finale for Les Bleus' most prolific goalscorer.

"It's not only about individuals," said Henry yesterday as he spoke about the problems that have beset the French squad of late. It is a line that Heskey's protectors would cite in his defence.

While his international goalscoring record is poor in the extreme – Peter Crouch, who has been consistently left on the bench by Fabio Capello, has already scored three times as many – there was definitely something about Emile William Ivanhoe Heskey beyond a memorable name and impressive physique, something that prompted six successive England managers to pick him and the likes of Gérard Houllier, Martin O'Neill and Steve Bruce to pay millions of pounds to secure his talents. He has a combined transfer fee of more than £26m.

Video: Heskey quits England



Apart from one season at Liverpool when he collected 23 goals – 2000-01 – Heskey has never been a reliable scorer. Houllier is among his biggest fans, citing the number of goals he is involved in as the true measure of his worth. In Rustenburg, it was Heskey's cute touch that set up Steven Gerrard to open the scoring against the United States.

For club and country his best performances have come when in partnership with Michael Owen, the classic little and large pairing. From the moment they first took the field together in an England shirt for the Under-18s the pair thrived, and when Heskey moved to Anfield to play his club football alongside Owen it sparked the best form of the big man's career. He has never, though, managed to perform consistently alongside Wayne Rooney.

His place in the England side has seemingly always invited debate. After Euro 2004 he was banished for three years before Steve McClaren recalled him and Capello has surprised many by dogmatically sticking with Heskey almost to the bitter end. He was one of the better players against the US but was finally dropped after a dire outing against Algeria. When his large, athletic frame appeared on the touchline against Germany with England 4-1 down, you could almost hear the collective groan around the country.

"He's a tremendous lad, great with the rest of the players and a very hard-working individual," said Brad Friedel, his Aston Villa team-mate yesterday. And that would seem to sum up the Pacific-sized gap in opinion over the 32-year-old. To his team-mates, and manager, he does an unglamorous job efficiently, allowing others to play.

"I have enjoyed every moment of my England career," he said yesterday. Unfortunately, it is a sentiment he is probably alone in holding.

Emile's numbers

6 After scoring six goals in 16 games for England Under-21s, Heskey was given his debut by Kevin Keegan in the 1-1 draw with Hungary in April 1999, aged 21

7 He scored his first goal for England in his seventh appearance – the 2-1 friendly win against Malta in June 2000

4 Heskey has represented England in four major tournaments: the 2000 and 2004 European Championships and the 2002 and 2010 World Cups

3 After Euro 2004, Heskey was out of the national team for three years before being called up by Steve McClaren

10 Heskey has only completed the full 90 minutes for England on 10 occasions

2 Two goalkeepers have scored more goals at international level than Heskey: the Colombian Rene Higuita and Jose Luis Chilavert, of Paraguay, have both scored eight

James Orr

England's lowest-scoring forwards

1. Emile Heskey (7 goals in 62) 0.11*

2. Peter Beardsley (9 in 59) 0.15

3. Teddy Sheringham (11 in 51) 0.22

4. Trevor Francis (12 in 52) 0.23

5. Ian Wright (9 in 33) 0.27

6. Robbie Fowler (7 in 26) 0.27

7. Darius Vassell (6 in 22) 0.27

8. Jermain Defoe (12 in 43) 0.28

9. Mark Hateley (9 in 32) 0.28

10. Francis Lee (10 in 27) 0.37

* goals per game; qualification 20 caps

France's highest-scoring players

1. Just Fontaine (30 in 21) 1.42

2. Jean Nicolas (21 in 25) 0.84

3. Michel Platini (41 in 72) 0.57

4. Jean-Pierre Papin (30 in 54) 0.55

5. David Trezeguet (34 in 71) 0.47

6. Jean Vincent (22 in 46) 0.47

7. Thierry Henry (51 in 123) 0.42

8. Youri Djorkaeff (28 in 82) 0.34

9. Zinedine Zidane (31 in 108) 0.28

10. Sylvain Wiltord (26 in 92) 0.28

Sport
Premier League Live
footballLIVE Follow all the Premier League action as it happens
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + echSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
News
James Argent from Towie is missing, police say
peopleTV star had been reported missing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone