This season’s marquee signings have turned on the style in the A-League so far.
While they seem to be getting the most of our sunburnt country, this land of sweeping plains, will the benefits for Australian soccer go further than just bums on seats?
34-year old Emile Heskey has seemed a player reborn in recent weeks.
His strike rate during all his time in English football was roughly a goal every 4.6 matches but since his arrival at the Newcastle United Jets, Heskey has hit the net 4 times in 4 games.
His second half brace, two minutes apart, against Melbourne Victory last night has taken the Leicester-born striker to the top of the A-league’s leading scorers tally.
This was Heskey’s first two-goal haul since appearing for Wigan in 2007.
Newcastle manager Gary van Egmond spoke of Heskey’s performance in front of goal as well as his influence on the rest of the team,
“We have a lot of really, really good lieutenants but he’s the one who we really need as the person who leads the line,” said van Egmond.
“With the amount of confidence that other players are getting and the amount of time the other players are getting, they are able to do better things with themselves and the ball. It’s a lot to do with the fact of what Emile does.
“He might not have as many touches as some players but his positions and the way he tracks certain players, the other players are really benefitting from that.”
Since Heskey’s arrival, the Jets have sold record numbers of season tickets and the last three home games have averaged a 50% increase compared to their entire average attendance for A-League home games.
That being said, Hunter Stadium has a capacity of 33,000. We will have to wait for later on in the season to see if Newcastle can deliver more fans through the gates.
Not only has Heskey’s impact on the club been immediate but it has been getting back to the U.K too.
News of the Jets having to order another 5000 Heskey replica shirts, after their initial print sold out in record time, was reported in the Guardian at the end of last month.
The Telegraph yesterday published a story on the Jets’ win, making note of Fox Sports’ choice of Heskey for their ‘Hero Cam’ digital feature.
Many U.K fans have taken to Twitter calling for Roy Hodgson to recall Heskey to national duty.
Meanwhile, Alessandro Del Piero will play his 800th game of professional football tomorrow when Sydney FC takes on Perth Glory at ANZ Stadium.
The club has moved the match from Allianz Stadium to the former Olympics venue, in the hope of attracting a bumper crowd – ANZ Stadium has a capacity of 84,000.
Sydney boss Tony Pignata spoke of the club’s signing coup;
“We’re over the moon with what we’ve achieved, in terms of getting a global brand,” said Pignata.
“A lot of eyes are now on Sydney, and what we do here.”
This ‘brand’ Pignata speaks of is gaining visibility worldwide with an article on Del Piero appearing in the New York Times on Tuesday.
Del Piero may be on a two-year contract with Sydney reportedly worth $4 million but his reverence in world football has led to a deal where Italian television channel Premium Calcio broadcasts all Sydney FC matches live.
The club has also started to receive a large number of media requests for interviews from Italy, the U.K, Spain, Germany and the rest of the world.
Former Socceroos captain Craig Moore has written an opinion piece on the FFA website, on whether he thinks Brisbane Roar striker Besart Berisha has more value to his team than Del Piero or Heskey.
See the full article here to understand Moore’s point of view but here is an excerpt;
“Right now, you’d have to say Berisha is more valuable to his team, because he’s been here longer and had a massive impact on Brisbane and the A-league.”
Do you agree? Or do you feel both Del Piero and Heskey will have shown how valuable they really are by the end of the season?
35,419 people were out in force at Allianz Stadium two weeks ago to see the two marquee men face off against one another.
This is what they were treated to:
We will have to wait and see how both Heskey and Del Piero deal physically with the rest of the season but if the A-League continues to be talked about worldwide because of them, that’s a good thing.