The great Emile Heskey debate
IS there a man in English football who divides opinion more than Emile Heskey?
'What is the point of that lump Heskey?" roars the average pint-swilling punter.
"England have no other striker like him," insists countless players and managers past and present.
It's remarkable just how drastically opinion on the merits of Heskey differ when you compare a conversation with somebody involved in the game to a chat with the fan on the street.
Having been fortunate enough to speak to players and managers who have worked with Heskey, I am yet to come across one that casts doubt over the 32-year-old's continued involvement at the top level.
Mutual respect between peers, you may think.
Maybe, but these are people who must know a thing or two about football having forged a decent living out of the beautiful game.
And each one shakes their head in sheer disbelief at the flak the big man gets.
Nowadays everybody's an expert, rolling sports news and the internet message boards have made sure of that.
It's easy to highlight and criticise Heskey's goal-scoring record for England - seven in 58 appearances - but was Peter Beardsley - nine from 59 - equally vilified during his time with the Three Lions?
In the same way that Beardsley was an integral part of Gary Lineker's golden boot-scoring antics at Mexico '86, Heskey could be equally vital - hopefully providing Wayne Rooney with the ammunition at South Africa 2010.
Rooney and, before him, Michael Owen (remember the immediate impact Heskey made during his 2007 return from the international wilderness?) are both appreciative of his efforts. Those are the opinions that count.
It's not always easy to pick out the man doing the dirty work. The unsung hero who will rarely get noticed from the stands yet receives all the plaudits from his team-mates.
Heskey is that man. It's a team game and, goals or no goals, the burly striker is capable of being a key cog in that Three Lions machine.
It is quite possible Heskey will be the most vilified man in England's World Cup squad.
And how did that turn out? Hargreaves was voted England's Player of the World Cup.
Write Heskey off at your peril.