Emile Heskey has revealed he rejected the chance to become Neil Lennon’s first signing at Hibernian.
The 38-year-old played under former Leicester City team-mate Lennon at Bolton Wanderers but after his contract expired with the Lancashire club last month, the former English international declined an invitation to come north – as he did twice before when approaches were made from Celtic.
“I took a call [about Hibs] but I am now happy to do coaching rather than playing. There was interest but for me it is the coaching side that interests me,” said Heskey, speaking yesterday at Celtic Park as he promoted the ‘battle of champions’ ICC trophy encounter between the Scottish title holders and English equivalents Leicester that the stadium will host in five weeks’ time.
“When I had chances to sign for Celtic I chose to stay down south with my family. The first time was when Martin O’Neill was here and even the gaffer [Neil Lennon] tried to bring me here. I took the phone call but I was quite happy being down south and being with my family.
“I don’t have too many regrets in my football career because I am generally happy with what I have done but it would have been nice to play here [at Celtic Park].”
Heskey maintained Lennon’s decision to return to management in the Scottish Championship four months after the bruising end to his season-and-a-half with a financially-stricken Bolton was not an especially risky move.
“Every job you take is a gamble,” said the former Liverpool striker. “He went to Bolton and did well then it fell away a bit. But he’s definitely good enough to get another chance. He’s a wonderful up and coming manager who has a lot to offer. Bolton won’t have harmed his reputation. Not many managers see their careers go up [all the time].”
Heskey, meanwhile, believes Joey Barton could have upped the pressure on himself in ways he has yet to realise after the opinionated summer arrival to Rangers said – before he has kicked a ball in the country – that no player in Scotland “could live with” him if he reaches the levels he did in helping Burnley win the Championship last season.
“People have to understand you take him with a pinch of salt,” said Heskey.
“He’d probably say nobody could touch him in the English Premier League too. A few years ago he said he was one of the best midfielders in the country and he should be in the national team. You have to be confident in yourself and that’s what he’s doing. Joey has done well for himself and I think he is a good player. Is he better than Stevie G? No.
“He’s shown in the English Championship he’s got the ability to boss games. But you’ve got to do it on the pitch and not on Twitter or other platforms. But I’ve played here and I know how intense it is here. But I’m not sure if he knows what he’s got himself into. Time will tell.”