Emile Heskey

'A Proud Moment' – Heskey On New LCFC Women Role

Emile Heskey, the Football Club’s new Head of Women’s Football Development, has outlined the role he aspires to play as part of Leicester City's continued commitment to the women's game in the Leicestershire region and beyond.
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After turning professional in 2020, the Foxes embarked on a record-breaking campaign last term, winning promotion to the Barclays FA Women's Super League – the highest level in the game. Heskey, on the other hand, has spent the last 12 months with the Club in an ambassadorial role for LCFC Women.

In his new position as Head of Women’s Football Development at Belvoir Drive, a full-time headquarters for the Club's women's team, Heskey will oversee coaching, performance and recruitment at both senior and academy levels, utilising over 30 years of experience at the very top of the sport.

A Leicester City Academy graduate, Heskey went on to lift two League Cups and play consistently in the Premier League for the Foxes, before winning six honours with Liverpool. He also earned 62 caps for the England men's national team, starring at several World Cups and European Championships. 

Heskey will now continue his work with LCFC Women's first team, while also seeking ways to improve opportunities for young female players in the region. This week, the Foxes legend sat down with LCFC TV to talk through his new position and to outline the Club's vision for women's football in Leicester.

"Who would’ve thought when I came here as a nine-year-old that I’d be sitting here now as Head of Women’s Football Development?" the 43-year-old said of his his first football administration role at the Club where his football journey began back in the early 1990s.

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Emile Heskey
Emile Heskey

The former England striker made just under 200 appearances for the Club's men's team, winning two League Cups.

"It’s a proud moment to be back and doing so well. For me, it’s obviously looking over the first team, the footballing philosophy, recruitment, transfers and then the reserves and youth as well. I look over that strategy and then report back to the board.

"We want to develop the game in the local area. [The role is about] meeting with local football clubs and integrating them. We’ve got so many women and girls football teams in Leicester. Obviously, I played for Ratby and Groby so it’s nice to see the development of the women’s game in the local areas.

"It’s about meeting with them and reaching out to them and integrating them into us as well. Without the grassroots in Leicester, where would I be? This is the thing. It’s wonderful to go back and see it developing even more. That’s fantastic and me being a part of it is great for me.

"We want to continue the development of the women’s game at Leicester City too. We’re at the beginning stage of what we want to achieve, so it’s just about keeping it going sustainably within the women’s game. We’re taking steps towards that."

Now into his second year with LCFC Women, Heskey is excited by the opportunities which his new position can present. Over the past 12 months, the former Birmingham City, Wigan Athletic and Aston Villa striker has worked closely with the backroom team at Belvoir Drive.

Those relationships, combined with first-hand experiences of playing, can help him perform important daily duties at the training ground, Heskey believes. The role sees him step into an executive position for the first time as he works towards UEFA’s Executive Master for International Players programme.

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Emile Heskey
Emile Heskey

The new position will allow Heskey to oversee coaching, performance and recruitment in his first football administration role.

"I’ve found it very good, exciting to be honest," he explained. "I didn’t know what to expect when I first came in, but being part of it is fantastic. The girls have been wonderful. We’ve got some great players, but obviously we’ve now been promoted and we’re in the big league, so there’s another step up.

"We’re just taking that as we do and we’re looking to progress. We’ve got a wonderful facility here and great people around us that are going to help us progress. You’re trying to get to understand what the players want, what the coaches want, and there’s a really good dynamic with the players.

"This season’s going to be tough, we’re going to have to fight, and we’ve got to keep people happy as well because, once you go into the games, you’ve got to be prepared to fight for each other, not just for yourself."

Heskey is thrilled to once again call Belvoir Drive his place of work, after emerging through the Academy and starring under the management of Martin O'Neill back when the facility was used primarily by the men's team at the Football Club.

Over recent years, Belvoir Drive has been extensively redeveloped and improved – making it one of the most elite facilities across the entire women's game.

"It’s changed a little bit from when I was here, but it’s nice to be back," he said. "When you’re looking at things like recruitment, this is a wonderful thing for recruitment because people want to be here. We’re setting standards now in the sense of what we’re giving to players.

"The Club has given us the ability to be on a platform where we can attract the best. This is where we are now and all we can do is thank the Club for that and now it’s a chance to move forward.

"When you’re meeting players here and they realise what steps forward Leicester City are taking, with the backing we have from the Club, it’s massive. I think Sky and the BBC have done fantastically in the broadcasting. It’s taken that step up as well. The quality will always get better as well.

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Emile Heskey
Emile Heskey

Emile’s role as an ambassador and mentor to players, particularly those playing professionally for the first time, was an important one last term.

"Leicester City have given us this facility to use, which has been fantastic for us. It’s brilliant because it’s not Leicester City men and Leicester City women, it’s Leicester City Football Club. They’ve reiterated that several times and there will be collaborations together.

"They’ve been doing it for years, so we can implement some of that on our side. I’ll be the bridge from one side to another, which is great. I’m going over to Seagrave to see what’s best practise over there and hopefully we can implement a lot of it over here. I’ve got the connections.

"I know a lot of people on both sides, so it’s an easier connection."

Heskey also paid tribute to the professional atmosphere which now exists at LCFC Women's training ground and outlined the faith he has in the current group of players, many of whom are embarking on their debut seasons at the highest level in the English game.

Last term, Emile was a mentor to many as they adapted to professional football and the Leicester City legend hopes to continue that role as a valuable off-field presence to the Club's players. 

"They’ve been fantastic in integrating me and allowing me to come in and making it seamless," he continued. "It’s different when you actually come in from a playing side into a backroom staff and having to adjust in that way.

"They’ve helped me with that and now, moving forward, they’re going to help me massively because it’s another role I’m getting involved with. I was once a player, so I understand what these players are going through.

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Emile Heskey
Emile Heskey

Heskey learned his craft as a young player at Belvoir Drive, which LCFC Women inherited following the men’s team’s move to Seagrave in late 2020.

"To be on the other side, understanding what the coaches want at the same time, it’s quite a good bridge because I’m not long retired. It’s the best of both worlds at times. The coaches have helped me to adapt to that side as well.

"I said to the girls, at least now I can say I’ve won a league! It was wonderful, the experience we had doing that. We knew it was going to be a difficult transition once you actually get into the WSL.

"We looked at all the stats, everything, and you realise you’re running more, everything’s got to be fought for more. The differences are bigger, but we’re ready for that. We’re ready to fight for that."

City are yet to get up and running in the WSL this term, but Heskey is confident that the side, managed by Jonathan Morgan, can adapt to the challenges which the league will pose. The Foxes face champions Chelsea at Kingsmeadow on Sunday (12:30pm BST kick-off).

For home matches, meanwhile, Leicester will run out mainly at King Power Stadium – another marker of the Club's commitment, says Heskey.

"It’s a tough league," he added. "When you’re coming up into the top league, you know it’s going to be tough. You’ve got to be prepared for that. Fitness-wise, we’re getting them fit. I remember coming up in 1996/97 knowing it was going to be tough going into the Premier League.

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Emile Heskey
Emile Heskey

The 43-year-old was speaking in-depth to LCFC TV after taking up his new position at the Football Club.

"You get your fitness work done and it gets you ready for every battle. It’s going to be a battle every game because we haven’t got the world player of the year or the European player of the year, but we’ve got a group that are ready to fight and that’s how we’ve got to be ready.

"Playing at King Power Stadium, having fans there, being able to see first team football for a reasonable price, it’s a different demographic of fans. They get to see players they could idolise and want to be like.

"It’s wonderful that the Club has given us that opportunity to do that and also going into the community to reach out to them as well. The first game was the second highest attendance, which is fantastic. I can go back as far back as playing reserve team football, Friday Night Football, at Leicester City.

"It was fantastic to see the next generation coming up and playing and the Club have given us that chance to play at King Power Stadium and some of these girls can idolise the likes of (Leicester-born defender) Ashleigh Plumptre and aspire to be like her."

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