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Heskey must add steel to power - 21/10/00


If you were to draw up a list of the Premiership strikers defenders wouldn't want to play against, Emile Heskey's name should be at the top.

Defenders hate facing opponents with genuine pace, but they are petrified of players with pace, coupled with the power and strength Heskey possesses

A lot of people questioned manager Gerard Houllier's decision to pay £11million for him last March and perhaps it was a little over the odds. But I believe it will prove a good investment over the course of his Liverpool career

It is six months since he left Leicester for Anfield and while I wouldn't say he has been in blistering form, he has not been a disappointment - somewhere in between would be about right.

He was one of England's better performers against Finland, and his hat-trick against Derby last Sunday will do his confidence a world of good. Heskey is progressing well, but there will be so much more to come from him if he can find a bit more self-belief.

He looks to have it all - decent touch, a blistering shot on both feet, good in the air, an accurate crosser - but he still has it all to prove. You have to remember his age.

He seems to have been around a lot but is still only 22 ... and improving. Like Michael Owen, who has the potential to be a world-beater, Heskey is nowhere near the finished article yet. He was bought for now and for tomorrow.

There are some drawbacks to his game, though. He seems injury-prone and, despite his size and strength, opponents tend to knock him about rather than the other way round. I'm not advocating he should start jumping in irresponsibly, but he seems to be on the deck too much.

He should be knocking people over legitimately. In short, he's got to be harder. Sol Campbell is a big, strong, quick defender but I saw him annihilated by a bigger, stronger and quicker player at Filbert Street not so long ago - Heskey.

But I believe Heskey must use his best assets to better effect. He was superb at Derby, but I want to see him terrorise teams every week. He should have defenders quaking in their boots.

Criticism of his goal output is a bit unfair. He will never get 20-30 goals a season because he works in the channels and out wide, rather than through the middle.

He is not a penalty-box predator like Owen or Robbie Fowler. He makes more goals than he scores but will still get between 10-15 a season. His work-rate for the team is impressive and unselfish.

As for who he should play alongside, it is difficult to answer because of the type of player he is. At Anfield, you could play him out wide, with Owen and Fowler through the middle.

But the best strike partnerships have comprised one out-and-out front man and a striker playing deeper - for instance, Rush-Dalglish, Lineker-Beardsley and Shearer-Sheringham. Heskey is neither one nor the other, so it is difficult to work out a partner for him.

He should be sent out without any tactical instructions. Don't inhibit him with systems but tell him to use his pace and power to terrorise the defence.

As for Liverpool, they need to build on Sunday's emphatic win at Pride Park -Êtheir first convincing performance of the season.

Maybe that will provide them with the necessary spark because they now have four home matches on the trot - Leicester and Everton in the Premiership, Slovan Liberec in the UEFA Cup and Chelsea in the Worthington Cup - and need to put together a consistent run.

Houllier has spent a lot of money assembling a talented squad and knows they must finish in the top three.
Leicester disappointed me with their negative attitude against a Manchester United team who rested Beckham, Giggs, Scholes and Cole.

The chance was there to have a go at United but they never got started.They are better than that and will be fired up to make amends at Anfield today.

I saw them bash a big hole in Liverpool's Champions League hopes with a 2-0 win there in April and if they can reproduce that sort of performance, the Reds will have to play well to beat them. The key factor could be Heskey's display against his old club.