Jokes aside, Heskey may have last laugh
IF YOU'RE a follower of English football, you probably love to hate Emile Heskey.
But the much-maligned former England striker could yet prove a more important signing for the A-League than Alessandro Del Piero.
Some pundits may think I have lost my senses, but the reasoning behind my outrageous claim is that Heskey does have a following in the UK.
Most of those may only check out how he is going Down Under just to mock him as they have done throughout his 18-year career.
But as they say, any publicity is good publicity, and the fact that the A-League is now grabbing the attention of English football fans has to be good news for the code.
On a recent trip back to the Old Dart, I was asked a few times how Heskey was travelling in Australia.
Admittedly, most of those questions were followed by a few old Heskey jokes, but at least there was a genuine interest in what was happening in the A-League.
Of course, questions about Heskey were followed by probing about how good the competition was and the standard of football - questions not asked on my previous visit two years ago.
In previous visits most sporting talk would revolve around Aussie rules, cricket and rugby league - sports that Australians are more renowned for playing.
Most did not realise there was a league of any decent standard, but hopefully with Heskey and, of course, Del Piero now plying their trade in Australia, the interest might grow.
Heskey and Del Piero's switch to football Down Under may just be the catalyst for others from the UK and Europe to check out just what Australian football - the round-ball version - is all about. Let's hope so.
The A-League is definitely on the up and the arrival of Heskey has to be a good thing for both the A-League and his club, Newcastle. The Jets have already benefited from the former Liverpool striker's play.
He has scored twice and also won the dubious penalty that helped Newcastle beat Central Coast last week in the F3 Derby.
Tonight he has the chance to fire his club to the top of the A-League - unthinkable just a few months ago at the time of owner Nathan Tinkler's decision, later reversed, to hand back the club's licence to the FFA.
How things have changed. Heskey's arrival has played a big part in the Jets' bright start to the new campaign.
Yes, he has been the butt of jokes over his lack of pace, lack of goals and overall demeanour on the football field, but you have to say the A-League is better for him playing in it.