Emile Heskey has told The Sportsman that England’s ‘Golden Generation’ of which he was a key part was ill-equipped to win major trophies regardless of their issues with squad harmony.
Under both Kevin Keegan and Sven-Goran Eriksson the Three Lions fell short of expectations, with their record under the Swede in particular being considered disappointing at a time when the likes of David Beckham, Michael Owen, Paul Scholes, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard were all part of the national set-up.
But while there were natural club divides in the England dressing room at the time, Heskey insists that that had no bearing in the country’s failure to turn talent into silverware.
“It was just regular cliques in the normal sense that if you were from the same club you would sit together,” Heskey told The Sportsman’s Chris Sutton.
“The closest I got to winning something was 2002, we played Brazil with Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho and then I always say about France... My age group for France was Thierry Henry, Anelka, Trezeguet, Gallas, then you add Zidane and the rest... Who has got the Golden Generation?”
At least the qualifiers for the 2002 World Cup gave England a couple of moments to remember, with Heskey identifying one of them as his greatest experience in the national shirt:
“The 5-1 [against Germany]. If I walk around any street in England you bump into fans who say ‘That 5-1 was an amazing game’ and everyone remembers exactly where they were at that time.”
The former Liverpool striker played under a remarkable six England managers and, naturally, he has his favourites:
“I like Sven, he was pretty similar to Gerard [Houllier] in that he would do things so that when you went on the pitch it’s kind of easy. You know exactly where he wants you to be and he was happy with that. His reign I have fond memories of.
“I wouldn’t say the least favourite, but Kevin Keegan was up and down. In the sense that tactically we weren’t as solid as with the other managers.”
England’s current crop drew headlines recently thanks to a training ground bust-up between Raheem Sterling and Joe Gomez, and Heskey has sided with manager Gareth Southgate after the decision to drop Sterling against Montenegro as a result:
“He had to make a stance, otherwise the players might not say you are a strong enough character to do it. If he’d have just left them and you get another one doing something, then you punish him, they would be like ‘Why has he got away with it and I haven’t?’ The players have got to understand it. I’ve seen it a few times.”
Heskey met up with our man Sutton as part of the latest episode ‘Sutton’s Big Games’. The former Liverpool man was chatting ahead of the first Merseyside derby of the season, which will see unbeaten Liverpool host an Everton side struggling to get their campaign going under embattled manager Marco Silva.