A confident Heskey is same as Drobga, claims Houllier

Emile Heskey started the season as the butt of jests about England's woeful World Cup performance, grinning stoically in the audience as Michael McIntyre mocked him on TV's Comedy Roadshow.

Gérard Houllier was not joking yesterday, however, when he likened the Aston Villa striker to Didier Drogba.

The Ivorian has a fever, which will deny a packed Villa Park and the armchair TV audience the opportunity to assess the comparison the Villa manager made as he anticipated Chelsea's visit. But Houllier, who worked with Heskey at Liverpool, argued that the similarities between the pair went further than the fact that both are aged 32, having been born exactly two months apart, and that each stands 6ft 2in.

In terms of goalscoring, they are chalk and fromage. Heskey will be making his 50th Premier League appearance for Villa in direct opposition to John Terry this evening, and has mustered only six goals in those games. Drogba already has as many for the champions and Premier League pacesetters this season. Yet Houllier stuck to his guns. "I watched Chelsea's game against Arsenal," he said. "Drogba is a hard-working centre-forward. But we have one who can do the same. Emile is strong, quick, powerful. It's mainly a matter of faith in himself sometimes."

There have been signs that Heskey's self-belief is returning. He has found the net twice since Houllier's arrival, heading a classic No 9's winner at Wolves, and powered past Sebastien Bassong to create Villa's goal at Tottenham. "Emile won't smash people out of the way [like Drogba]," the Frenchman said. "He's strong physically but he doesn't use his strength. Sometimes he can do better with that.

"But in terms of skill, he does things in training you would be amazed to see. I think he forgets sometimes how good he can be. He's very selfless. Very seldom you can blame him for taking his chance when someone else is in a better position, because he likes to play for the others.

"Even in training he's blossoming. He knows what I expect from him. And he knows I trust him, which probably helps his game, because he needs to feel that. You're not looking at him for making mistakes or missing chances. He knows he can do it and repeat it. A centre-forward is a different animal. Sometimes they disappear for 20 minutes and then produce something, whether out of skill or power. Emile can do both. He knows he can make and score goals, and hold the ball up."

Is it really plausible, though, to discuss Heskey in the same breath as the great Ivorian? "Drogba is a fantastic centre-forward, probably the best in the world. He's got everything. He can score by himself, be on the end of the cross, head the ball, take free-kicks and he works very hard for the team. Emile has got some attributes that look like Didier but doesn't seem to use them. When he does, he's the centre-forward you saw in the last few games.

"With strikers we're sometimes not very patient. We expect too much. If a midfielder has an average game we seem to forget it. But if a striker has an average game, and misses a few chances, you can sometimes destroy his confidence." Did that happen to Heskey? "Probably."

Chelsea won the last League meeting 7-1 in March and beat Martin O'Neill's side 3-0 in the FA Cup the following month but have prevailed only once in 11 visits to Villa. Houllier is again without striker Gabriel Agbonlahor (groin), while defender Curtis Davies has joined Sven-Goran Eriksson's Leicester on a month's loan.

Drogba v Heskey

Goals scored by Didier Drogba and Emile Heskey since the Ivory Coast striker joined Chelsea in July 2004. In that time Heskey has played for Birmingham City, Wigan Athletic and Aston Villa:

2004-05 Drogba: 16 Heskey: 11

2005-06 Drogba: 16 Heskey: 5

2006-07 Drogba: 33 Heskey: 8

2007-08 Drogba: 15 Heskey: 4

2008-09 Drogba: 14 Heskey: 6

2009-10 Drogba: 37 Heskey: 5

2010-11 Drogba: 6 Heskey: 3


Drogba: 137

Heskey: 42

Goals for all competitions

i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower