Philip Buckingham: Hull City would make a powerful statement by signing Emile Heskey
AFTER 15 consecutive seasons in the Premier League and an England career that spanned over a decade, Emile Heskey requires no introductions as he seeks a fresh – and perhaps final – challenge of his illustrious career.
Least of all to Steve Bruce, the manager attempting to lure the veteran to Hull City.
Bruce worked with Heskey during spells in charge of Birmingham City and Wigan Athletic and would dearly love to complete the hat-trick as boss of the Tigers.
The 34-year-old is currently weighing up his next move from a family holiday in the Middle-East but should he choose City and a step down out of the top flight, the Championship would have to take notice.
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In a week where Blackburn Rovers have already won acclaim for landing playmaker Danny Murphy on a free transfer from Fulham, a move for Heskey would strike a similarly ambitious chord.
This, after all, is a player who has attracted £26m in transfer fees, won 62 England caps and featured in three major international tournaments. Heskey's CV would stand comparison with the very best in City's history.
Yet, unlike the far less decorated Murphy, still there would be the inevitable grumbles.
And Heskey's critics have age-old ammunition at their disposal.
Almost 700 career appearances have delivered just 153 goals. To illustrate a fall from grace, just seven of those have come in the last two years.
Such figures paint the picture of a perennial underachiever wracked by a long-standing flaw, but there is so much more than goals to Heskey's game. Strength, power and awareness have made him a popular strike partner for a host of forwards over the past decade. Michael Owen, a team-mate at England and Liverpool, would provide a glowing character reference.
Heskey's best may be a dimming memory as his legs fade with age, but the Championship would be a far more forgiving playground for him to resume the familiar role of attacking bully.
As the axed former boss Nick Barmby grew tired of repeating last season, City have often lacked a "street-wise" option up top.
Nigel Pearson attempted to solve the problem 12 months ago by recruiting veteran targetman Dele Adebola on a free transfer, while Aaron Mclean, who stands at just 5ft 8in, was another charged with the remit of holding up possession.
Neither was convincing and Bruce will know it is an area that needs to be addressed for the Tigers.
The Championship's three most successful sides of 2011-12 were no strangers to calling upon brute force in attack. Southampton had Rickie Lambert, Reading recruited Jason Roberts and West Ham's direct style utilised the formidable Carlton Cole. All reaped reward with promotion.
A move for Heskey would carry its risks, though. After commanding a reported £60,000-a-week at Aston Villa, a move to the KC would need City to break a wage structure implemented throughout the reign of the Allam family. Matty Fryatt, the recipient of £12,000 a week, is thought to be the highest earning recruit since the days of Premier largesse.
And then there is Heskey's age. Set to turn 35 in January, a two-year deal would probably be needed to tempt him to the KC and weighty financial commitments have regularly scarred City's balance sheets.
It all leads the Allams back to the dilemma that provoked such powerful, and perhaps ill-advised, rhetoric from Barmby at the end of last season. To stick or to twist?
Roll the dice with an ambitious summer or allow an evolving squad to progress at a conservative pace?
Signing Heskey would provide a powerful statement to accompany landing Bruce, and stoke optimism in another promotion push.