I would never turn down a return to Leicester City, says Emile Heskey
Emile Heskey may have moved on in his career from the shy, reserved, but powerful and exciting youth that first burst on to the scene with Leicester City under Martin O'Neill, but he admits the club is never far from his thoughts, or his heart.
Emile William Ivanhoe Heskey is beloved by the Blue Army, who were thrilled to see one of their own pull on the blue shirt and give total commitment as he did in nearly 200 games for City after coming through the youth ranks and breaking into the first team in 1995.
Of course, Heskey's performances soon attracted attention from some of English football's giants and it was inevitable that he would move, as he did in 2000 when City sold him to Liverpool in a deal that was eventually worth a club-record £11million.
However, Heskey never forgot his roots, coming to City's aid with a generous cash donation to help the Gary Lineker-led consortium when the club was facing financial ruin in 2003.
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And now, Heskey admits he would love to serve the club where it all began in some capacity in the future.
A return as a player seems unlikely though, as manager Nigel Pearson seems intent on building a young and hungry squad for this season's Championship assault.
But Heskey, who refers to City as 'we' throughout the interview, says he would not ever rule out a return, either as a coach or an ambassador.
"I wouldn't turn down Leicester," said Heskey, who is a free agent having left Aston Villa, pictured below, at the end of last season.
"I would see what they have to offer and where they are going as a club.
"I haven't had any contact but I will sit down with my agent and see what offers there are.
"I would never rule out coming back to Leicester in some capacity, whether that is as a coach or in an ambassador role. That would be great for me. I want to give something back, especially to Leicester.
"I tried to help out when it was a tough time for the club. It was a gesture I felt I needed to make.
"Having come from Leicester and watched from the terraces, and then played on the pitch, it is a massive part of me and I needed to help out.
"It was nice to be able to do that, and I would love to try to help out again in any way I could, especially coaching or as an ambassador. I am from Leicester and I am a Leicester fan, so I always check up on them.
"I have got friends in Leicester and still speak to the youth team development officer there. I still have contacts there. My brother goes down and watches quite often as well."
Heskey played his part in a golden era for City. He helped them return to the Premier League in 1996 and, under O'Neill, they won the League Cup twice, played in Europe and finished in the top 10 in the top flight four times.
Heskey says City over performed, but he can see a bright future for his beloved club again.
"If we are to be honest, we over achieved a little bit," he said.
"We went to the play-off final and, after that, we went to Wembley about four times in five years or something like that.
"It was phenomenal, playing in Europe for two seasons. We over-achieved a little bit but we did play some nice football. It didn't quite work out for other managers after Martin and we dropped into League One, but went straight back up.
"But now we have a manager in Nigel Pearson who is showing signs that we are on the up again.
"The club has the backing of the owners, who have been brilliant. They are putting money into the youth development as well as the first team to move the club forward.
"You have to take their hat off to them because a lot of owners are reluctant to do that, especially if you are not showing the form on the field. But they are really backing Nigel.
"Hopefully, it will be upwards and onwards for Leicester. The Championship is a difficult league to get out of but, once you are out of it, with the owners we have got, I think we could actually do something."
Heskey believes Pearson needs time to get City on course for the Premier League, and believes the owners will give him the opportunity.
"You need to give a manager time, you need stability and you can't keep chopping and changing," he said. "But then again, who am I to tell an owner what to do?
"It is their business and their club. But you do need to give someone time, especially if you feel they are going in the right direction.
"If he isn't, then you have a decision to make, but I believe with Pearson we are going in the right direction and I believe he will be given time."
Heskey added: "It will be tough. You have the likes of Cardiff, who are always there or thereabouts, and Blackburn who have just come down but are buying good players, so it will be difficult.
"But with Leicester, we have a funny knack of being there or thereabouts and then pushing at the end of the season, getting into play-offs and winning it.
"Fingers crossed we don't need to put the fans through that roller-coaster ride, and we go straight up."
Emile Heskey factfile
Name: Emile William Ivanhoe Heskey
Date of birth: Jan 11, 1978
Place of birth: Leicester
Height: 6ft 2in (1.88m)
Present club: None, free agent
Previous clubs: 1994–2000 Leicester City, 154 appearances (40 goals); 2000–04 Liverpool 150 (39); 2004–2006 Birmingham City 68 (14) ; 2006–09 Wigan Athletic 82 (15) ; 2009–12 Aston Villa 92 (nine).
International honours: 1999–2010 England, 62 caps (seven goals)
First city goal: Heskey scored in his debut season in a 1-0 victory against Norwich. He scored a further six goals during that campaign.