Some around the world see him as a washed up footballer who can no longer hang in a major league, and he's even become a bit of a punchline. Unless you go out of your way to follow Australian football (and no, not Aussie Rules), you may not have noticed that there's nothing funny about the way Newcastle Jets star Emile Heskey is currently playing. While I certainly wouldn't suggest that Heskey is indeed "back," the former Premier League forward is currently the hottest goal scorer in the A-League.
Heskey, billed as one of the biggest signings in A-League history, netted goals three and four of the 2012-13 campaign during Newcastle's 2-1 win over Melbourne Victory on Friday night. The two tallies came three minutes apart from each other, and the second brought visions to mind of the player of old, one who scored memorable goals for both club and country. Heskey currently sits atop the list of A-League scorers. Besart Berisha of Brisbane Roar has three goals, and Sydney FC magician Alessandro Del Piero (Del Piero also joined the A-League this past summer) has two. Five other players are also on two goals heading into the weekend.
Heskey first found the back of the net nine minutes after the halftime break. Teammate Josh Brillante completed a run down the right wing before sending a cross into the penalty area. The pass deflected off a defender before landing in the box, and Heskey, while flanked by three defenders, did well to ease a shot past the goalkeeper and into the corner of the net. That tap-in alone wouldn't have earned the front man any headlines, but Heskey wasn't nearly finished.
Newcastle earned a corner in the 56th minute, and Heskey positioned himself in front of the 'keeper. Two failed attempts to make a play on the delivery found the ball bouncing right in front of the striker, and the unmarked Heskey swung a bicycle kick (yes, you read that right) that rocketed the ball past the line for what proved to be the match-winner. Melbourne's Archie Thompson buried a header 19 minutes from time, but the visitors were unable to produce an equalizer before the final whistle.
After having a quiet A-League debut earlier this month, Heskey has quickly become the most in-form striker in the country. He has scored four goals in his team's last three contests, each of which were won by Newcastle, and the Jets are currently in first place in the league table and on nine points. Only Newcastle and Melbourne have played four league matches this season as of the posting of this piece.
Critics can say whatever they want about the quality of A-League defenders, or that players such as Heskey and Del Piero are nothing more than gimmicks used to sell tickets. Both players have had an impact on multiple contests in the first month of the campaign, although all early indications are that Heskey has a bit more to work with than does the former Juve man. Would Newcastle still be atop the league ladder as the end of October approaches if they didn't have Heskey averaging a goal per match?
Maybe, but I'm sure the Jets are more than fine not knowing the answer to that question.
- Sports & Recreation
- Emile Heskey
- Alessandro Del Piero