Former Aston Villa and England striker Emile Heskey will follow Alessandro Del Piero to Australia after agreeing to a one-year deal with A-League club the Newcastle Jets. The 34-year-old, who has been a free agent since Aston Villa refused to offer him a new contract in May, will be the club's marquee player -- a title he hopes will fuel an influx of new and more original jokes about him among Australians.
"When older footballers go abroad, everyone always assumes it's just about the money," Heskey told reporters while stuck in a revolving door. "But for me, this move is really just about starting a new adventure in a place where I'll have the opportunity to hear different people come up with fresh jokes about me. In England all the Heskey gags have become so predictable and, to be honest, my own family often comes up with better ones on a regular basis. So I'm really hoping Australians can watch me play and respond with different bon mots that really capture my imagination again."
According to Jets CEO Robbie Middleby, Heskey will not be disappointed.
"I think Emile will be pleasantly surprised by the creativity of A-League fans and bloggers when they start insulting him," said Middleby. "And as I told Emile when we first started wooing him: it's definitely a matter of 'when' and not 'if.'"
Heskey started 28 matches for Aston Villa last season, but scored just one goal. This helped reinforce the punchlines to wisecracks about his ineptitude in front of goal. In 62 appearances for England, he scored seven times before retiring from international football in 2010 -- a decision that sparked a flood of sarcasm.
But Heskey is optimistic about his new challenge. "I look forward to helping football grow in Australia, one joke about me at a time," he said after accidentally tying his shoelace around his finger. "I'm going to do my best to make my new teammates better. Or at least appear to be better than Emile Heskey."