Tomorrow, 28 April 2009, sees the tenth anniversary of Emile Heskey's debut in an England shirt. Back then, he was 21 years old and competing with the likes of Andy Cole, Robbie Fowler and Alan Shearer for a striking berth in Kevin Keegan's side. Fast forward a decade and the centre-forward is now England's first-choice No9.
Having recently signed for Aston Villa, the 31-year-old spoke to FIFA.com to reflect on a career which has seen claimwin a UEFA Cup, a UEFA Super Cup and everything there is to win in the English game, with the exception of the league title.
FIFA.com: Emile, you've had a 15-year career at the top. How would you assess it so far?
Emile Heskey: If, when I was younger and coming into the game, and I'd have said to myself, ‘Emile, you're going to win many trophies, play so many times for the national team and play in cup finals', I'd have been over the moon! But you always want more.
People say that experience is key in football. What do you think have been the most important lessons you've learned on the pitch since 1994?
You've got to listen to advice. You have people who analyse games extremely closely, so you've got to take what they say on board. If you listen to their instructions and try to follow them, then hopefully you see a difference.
Obviously you're reunited with Martin O'Neill now at Aston Villa. Do you think he has changed since his days in Leicester?
No, not at all. He's pretty much the same to be honest. He's just had a chat with me before [the interview], jogging my memory about a few things. I left Leicester City when he was manager when I was 22. Coming back to him almost ten years later has been interesting. He's reminding me about the lessons I've forgotten! He's a superb man-manager. He gets the players going. He's very good at buying players; bringing people in who complement the existing squad.
How are you settling in to life at Villa Park?
I'm enjoying it. It's a big club, the type where every player wants to play.
You joined Liverpool at the age of 22 for a record fee of £11m? Did that weigh heavily on your shoulders?
No, not really. The fee was the fee and there was nothing I could do about it. The time I had there was brilliant and while there were ups and downs, I would have experienced them whether I'd gone to Liverpool or gone to any other club.
It gave you the opportunity to reform a partnership you'd formed at youth international level with Michael Owen. Why is it that the two of you work so well together?
I'm not too sure. Obviously playing together from a younger age was good for us, but I'm a fan of playing a big striker alongside a smaller one. To be honest, Michael brings the best out of anyone he plays with; he's so intelligent and plays to his partner's strengths. If you look at the time when we played together, he was always at the end of my flick-ons and was in a good position when I could play the ball to him.
Do you still think that Michael has something to offer the England squad?
Definitely, but that's up to the manager. He's the one who picks the team, but in my opinion Michael has got a lot to offer.
You picked up plenty of trophies at Anfield, but which medal stands out the most for you?
The UEFA Cup was good, but winning the FA Cup was massive. We were 1-0 down against Arsenal and then Michael turned on the style and scored two late goals. It was incredible.
There was no medal at the 2002 FIFA World Cup™, but you did manage a goal. What's it like to score at a World Cup?
It's an amazing feeling and it was an amazing achievement. Not many people can say they've scored at a World Cup, but I'm one of them.
What's the whole experience of travelling to a World Cup like as a player?
It's great - and that World Cup was incredible. Obviously, we had David Beckham with us and the effect that he had on the Japanese fans was incredible. I think we had half of Japan supporting us because of him!
There have been periods when you've fallen out of favour at international level. Have there been points in your career when you thought you might not get back into the side?
There have been times when I've thought: 'Is it going to happen?', but you never give up hope. You never want to retire from international football because you never know what's going to happen.
Now, I think many people see you as being 'Emile Heskey, England's No9'. How good does that sound?
It feels good, but you know that you've got to keep on impressing the manager in order to retain it. There are lots of good strikers in England: Peter Crouch, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Carlton Cole and lots of others could do a very good job too.
Would you say that you and Wayne Rooney have a natural understanding?
Well, it's going well at the minute. Like Michael, Wayne's a great and intelligent player. He's started to link up extremely well with Steven Gerrard to great effect, but they don't play for the same club side. If you look at the England squad, there's lots of good examples of understanding throughout the team. Whether that's a natural thing, or whether it's to do with a player's intelligence, I couldn't say.
What does Fabio Capello bring to the squad as a manager?
He brings stability and discipline. I'm not saying that the discipline wasn't there under previous managers, but on the pitch we are more disciplined and we know our jobs. Everyone knows what they have to do at every stage of the game.
How excited are you about the prospect of playing at South Africa in 2010?
If we get there, it will be unbelievable. If I'm selected, then it will be a real privilege to play at my second World Cup.