Former England and Premier League striker Emile Heskey has detailed a time when he almost got physical with his old boss at Leicester and Aston Villa, Martin O’Neill.
Heskey and O’Neill spent a large part of the former’s playing career together, first at Leicester City before reuniting around a decade or so later at Aston Villa.
The big striker was very fond of O’Neill and his style of management, with the pair having great success with the Foxes before Heskey made his move to Liverpool under Gerard Houllier.
Their relationship however wasn’t always rosey as Heskey reminisces about one particular game during his time at Aston Villa.
Villa were playing Championship side Crystal Palace in the FA Cup and were down a goal to nil at half-time with the much fancied Premier League side struggling against their second tier rivals.
Speaking to Pundit Arena, Heskey remembers that O’Neill felt his striker wasn’t having a particularly good game against Palace and proceeded to chew him out in the dressing room.
Heskey, a normally calm and cool figure, was getting angrier and angrier as O’Neill pushed and pushed and the striker outlined that he simply couldn’t take the manager’s criticism any longer.
“We were playing Crystal Palace away,” Heskey recalls.
“The gaffer (Martin O’Neill) is one of those ones, he’ll keep popping and popping and popping, he’ll kick every ball with you. At times you want someone a bit calmer and we’d come in at half time and he was like to me ‘you, blah blah blah’ and it kept going to a stage where I either had to let it go or say something.
“I got up and had Richard Dunne and James Collins holding me back. It was just one of those things. There was another one actually, Fulham away, I didn’t go for him but it was the same sort of thing.”
Thankfully the intervention of Heskey’s teammates meant that nobody was hurt in the incident and the former England frontman can joke about the exchange 10 or so years on.
In addition to the rather heated incident, Heskey also praised O’Neill and the affect he had on his game as a young player at Leicester.
“There were two managers who were really good for me. Martin because he would tell me to just express myself and play with freedom. I was 18 at the time and played under him from 18-22.
“He was brilliant, I had no complaints. I didn’t need too much coaching I just needed to be told what to do in that sense. Just go out there and perform and express myself and that’s what he did. He gave me little information that would cloud my mind. He’d say ‘Emile, get the ball, turn and run’ so that’s what I did.
“He was brilliant in that sense. Then I moved and went to Liverpool and learned a bit more about football being with Gerard Houllier who you’d have boards of things to go through and you’d go through all stats too, it was amazing. It was tough at first because I’d gone from not doing any of that.”
Wes Brown, Emile Heskey, Jack Byrne and Shane Supple were at the Sport Ireland Campus today to help launch a new season of action on the eir sport pack. eir sport viewers can watch every game in the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League plus UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers on Virgin Media Sport, which is now part of the eir sport pack, as well as live FA Cup games, SSE Airtricity League games & the Republic of Ireland’s U21 Home Qualifiers.