Soccer: Free-scoring Heskey hits ground running

Emile Heskey has scored four goals from as many games in the A-League. Photo / Getty Images.
Emile Heskey has scored four goals from as many games in the A-League. Photo / Getty Images.

For all his achievements in almost two decades spent playing in the English Premier League, Emile Heskey was hardly renowned as a goal machine.

But the former England international's free-scoring form for the Newcastle Jets suggests that could change in the A-League.

The big striker has hit the ground running in Australian football, with his brace in Friday night's 2-1 triumph over Melbourne Victory taking his tally to four goals from as many games.

In doing so he moved to the top of the early goal-scoring charts and became the first Jets player to score in three successive games since former hero Joel Griffiths in the victorious 2007/08 campaign.

The 34-year-old's prolific start has surprised many, and not only because he arrived in Australia only a week before the season kicked off.

With a strike rate of one goal every 4.6 games in English football in his time with Leicester City, Liverpool, Birmingham, Wigan and Aston Villa, Heskey's main strength has always been seen as his ability to hold up the ball and create opportunities for his teammates.

But the Jets look to be getting the best of both worlds out of their new signing.

Coach Gary van Egmond tipped before the season Heskey could surprise a few people in front of goal and he is rapt with the striker's return.

However he's most excited about the way Heskey is allowing others - the likes of Ryan Griffiths and young guns Craig Goodwin and James Virgili - to shine.

"We have a lot of really really good lieutenants but he's the one who we need as the person who really leads that line," van Egmond said.

"With that amount of confidence and time that other players are getting, and the fact they're able to do better things with the ball, is a lot to do with what Emile does with the ball.

"He might not have as many touches as some players but his positioning and the way he attracts certain players, the other players are really benefiting from that."

Heskey's form has coincided with a superb start for the Jets with their third successive win ensuring their best start to an A-League campaign.

Van Egmond still believes his team needs plenty of improvement but admitted it was a dream start.

"We were always very confident with the work that we've done in the off-season, " he said.

"But if you would have asked me at the beginning of the year, would you take three out of four, I definitely would have taken it."

AAP lf/sj


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