Emile Heskey hangs up England shirt

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The Independent Football

Emile Heskey, who today announced his retirement from international football, could only manage seven goals in 62 appearances but successive England managers valued him as a target man.

The 32-year-old Aston Villa striker was seen as the player who could get the best out of first Michael Owen and then Wayne Rooney.

It was the combination of the powerful frontman with a quicker, more clinical strike partner which saw Germany torn apart 5-1 during a memorable World Cup qualifier in Munich during September 2001, a night when Heskey also got on the scoresheet.

Heskey also scored at the 2002 finals, against Denmark, but his poor strike rate in an England shirt gave his critics plenty of ammunition.

First called up to the England squad by Glenn Hoddle during 1998, Heskey - who started his career at Leicester before spells at Liverpool, Birmingham and Wigan ahead of a switch to Villa in January 2009 - had to wait until April 1999 to make his debut, against Hungary in Budapest and now under the watchful eye of Kevin Keegan.

Heskey would go on to play at the European Championships of 2000 and again four years later; he was an ever-present at the 2002 World Cup in the Far East where Sven-Goran Eriksson's men reached the quarter-finals.

However, it would be three years before the new man in charge, Steve McClaren, recalled Heskey from the international wilderness to win a 50th cap against Belarus in Minsk.

Despite playing a key role in England's impressive qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup under Fabio Capello, Heskey's international career was to end in disappointment following a poor showing by the whole squad in South Africa.

Heskey had started the matches against the United States and Algeria, but was dropped for the final group game against Slovenia, which England won 1-0 thanks to a goal from his replacement Jermain Defoe.

What would prove to be his final international appearance as a late substitute came during the 4-1 defeat by Germany in the last 16.

"I have enjoyed every moment of my England career and worn the shirt with pride every time I have been fortunate enough to have been selected," said Heskey.

"I would like to thank every manager I have played under, everyone at the Football Association and the fans for all their support over the years.

"I wish the management team and the playing squad all the best for the future."

A new generation will now forge the next England attack when Capello plans for the future ahead of the 2012 European Championships, and it has been suggested West Ham's Carlton Cole can offer the manager a player of similar style and stature to that provided by Heskey.