Having Heskey in A-League would buck a trend towards mobility
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England's Emile Heskey. AP Photo/Tom Hevezi
If the rumours and reports linking former Liverpool FC striker Emile Heskey to A-League club the Newcastle Jets are true, then unfortunately, after the great gains made by the signing of Alessandro Del Piero, it would buck a trend towards mobility.
This argument has nothing to do with Heskey’s nationality but everything to do with the technical evolution of Australia’s domestic competition over the past few seasons.
While Heskey is a well recognised name to those in this country obsesssd by the English Premier League, anyone who actually watches it would recognise that Heskey’s best days were at least a decade ago, when he had a good season or two at Leicester City.
As his career has moved on at various clubs, clumsy touches and an inability to link have been his hallmarks, for club and country.
His recent goal-scoring record and general play has become the subject of many a joke across England.
The fact he isn’t been chased by too many others must say something.
After the credibility garnered by the signing of Del Piero, showing us to be bold and ambitious, landing on Heskey would be a reality check, a reminder that we still have much to learn.
His signature would fly against everything that Jets manager Gary van Egmond is purportedly putting together: a young squad, full of mobility, that like to move it around and keep it down.
Yes, the Jets might never have had a great number 9, bringing in such disasters as Jardel and Edmundo Zura, but the addition of a weightlifter like Heskey doesn’t appear the answer.
Increasingly, better educated A-League managers are making smarter recruitment decisions, evidenced by Ange Postecoglou bringing in Besart Berisha and Perth Glory’s chase of Shane Smeltz.
Others that have gone down the path of big target-men have been less successful.
Last season, when Graham Arnold lost Matt Simon to Korea, he went for John Sutton. He proved a flop.
Famously, Vitezslav Lavicka made a big song and dance a couple of seasons ago about signing a big target-man to hold up Sydney FC’s play.
He waited and waited, trailing all sorts, before bringing in the likes of Juho Makela and Bruno Cazarine.
While Cazarine did score goals, he never quite suited the defensive Lavicka strategy, which was more about sitting and waiting rather than getting on the front foot and getting balls in from wide.
The evolution of the standard of the league into a more mobile, technical competition, is the main reason target men have generally struggled.
That and the general size of our central defenders.
The likes of Michael Beauchamp, for example, would rather fancy facing up to a Heskey over a Berisha or Archie Thompson.
At a time when the modern game is moving more and more away from big, bustling target men, to mobility, Heskey would defy the trend.
This, unfortunately, would be a signing that takes the A-League back a few years to the days before the likes of Carlos Hernandez, Jason Culina, Thomas Broich and Berisha lifted its technical level from the dire standards of the opening three or four seasons.
In truth, Heskey might not be the only big target man on an A-League roster this season, with Melbourne Heart manager John Aloisi moved to bolster his striking stocks by bringing in Dylan Macallister, while Ricki Herbert emphasised the “presence” of Belgian signing Stein Huysegems.
Elsewhere, and judging by my first look at West Sydney Wanderers’ Croatian recruit Dino Kresinger last week, Tony Popovic has also gone for a big man as the focal point in his attack.
Crosstown rivals, Sydney FC, appear to have gone the other way, with Kruno Lovrek seemingly the type of mobile, technical striker that is equally as comfortable roaming outside the box as he is inside.
It’s the same at Melbourne Victory, where Guilherme Finkler has been added to the front third stocks, and Adelaide, where John Kosmina has brought in diminutive Argentine Jeronimo Neumann.
Increasingly, this appears to be the trend not only overseas, but in the A-League.
And while the likes of Heskey might bring some variety, the move to a more technical and mobile front third appears the more likely solution.
Follow Tony on Twitter @TonyTannousTRBA
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