Belfast Telegraph

Emile Heskey's admiration for Northern Ireland fans that livened up Leicester Ciy

Happy memories: Emile Heskey in action for Leicester City
Happy memories: Emile Heskey in action for Leicester City
Heskey enjoyed playing with Gerry Taggart (pictured) and Neil Lennon
Neil Lennon

By David O'Dornan

Celtic boss Neil Lennon was the "biggest moaner" and he and Gerry Taggart enjoyed a drink, according to retired England striker Emile Heskey.

He has also heaped praise on former Northern Ireland captain Martin O'Neill, who was his manager at Leicester City when they won the League Cup in 1997 and 2000.

Ex-Liverpool forward Heskey (41) has just released his autobiography and said he knew Lennon (48) would make it into management because he was so vocal on the pitch as a player.

He said: "He was without doubt the biggest moaner I played with. I knew he would go on to be a manager. He was an organiser, he was aggressive and he just wanted it more than anyone else.

"He was our heartbeat, the engine of the side, who just won the ball and kept it moving. At that time, the two best midfielders in English football were Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira.

"Right behind them, and on his day level with them, was Lenny. I'm not sure he got the appreciation he deserved, but ask his team-mates, ask the Leicester fans and they will tell you how important he was.

"Lenny was an exceptional footballer, and he's proven himself to be a successful manager too; winning trophies at Celtic, working effectively in a difficult role at Bolton and, more recently, having some success with Hibernian."

In his book, Even Heskey Scored, he said when Lennon was a player there was a "drinking school" which fellow local star Gerry Taggart would join when he signed in 1998.

He said: "That summer, Martin strengthened the squad again. He brought in Gerry Taggart and Frank Sinclair. They both settled in very well, very well indeed, as they absolutely loved a drink.

"Walshy (Steve Walsh), Lenny, Muzzy (Izzet) and Matty (Elliott) loved these two joining as it added another two to the drinking school.

"Taggs used to have his cousin come on nights out, or on trips away, and they would sit in the bar, playing the guitar, singing Irish songs and they would fill the room with empty bottles and drink the place dry.

"It was ridiculous. Those boys could put it away, but come training and game day, they would be on the ball. Taggs was a superb threat at set pieces."

Meanwhile, Heskey had nothing but admiration for Martin O'Neill (67), who also managed him at Aston Villa and tried to sign him for Celtic as well.

He added: "He liked what he saw in me and if he liked you, you would play out of your skin for him as he gave you confidence. He gave me everything; just relentless positivity.

"He sat me down and calmly explained that he believed I had a long, exciting career ahead of me and that I could achieve whatever I wanted. Martin had the knack of making you feel you could take on the world.

"He was the king of the city. The people loved him. He had such a commanding presence.

"The Villa lads from that era still talk about him now, just like the Leicester lads do, and they all love him and tell stories about him. He's held in such high regard."

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