For most people, your favorite players fit in one of two categories.
The first category is the genuinely great player. It's someone that plays for you club that is obviously good, and becomes beloved because they are clearly great and help your team win.
The second is the cult hero. This player is usually somewhat decent, or has had at least one moment of glory in helping your club win a match. But this type becomes a favorite more because it's someone who has clearly developed a strong love and affinity for the club and/or the fans.
For most Aston Villa supporters, Emile Heskey falls in neither of those categories. He joined Villa in January 2009 and left three and bit years later having scored just 14 goals in 110 appearances. While he had other abilities that could sometimes make him a useful player, that's not a great record for a forward. And most fans got too frustrated by his play for him became a cult hero. However, I'm not most Aston Villa supporters, and Emile Heskey genuinely is one of my favorite ever Aston Villa players.
Obviously for me, he falls under the second category of favorite players. Even I wouldn't make the argument that Heskey was great in claret and blue. He was 31 when he signed for Villa and the club were never likely to get their money's worth out of him. And yes, there's that whole story that Martin O'Neill turned down Radamel Falcao in favor of Heskey. But you can't blame that on Heskey, that's purely the fault of O'Neill.
In trying to think up actually concrete reasons for my love of Heskey, I find it difficult to put into words. It's partly that he seemed like he genuinely cared when playing. No matter what you thought of him as a player, it's not like you could say he wasn't trying his best. At the same time though, I can't say it's purely down to that. I'm genuinely not someone who needs to see players act like they're exerting 100% effort 100% of the time and kiss the badge when they score.
It's more that he seems like a nice man who wanted to do his best for the club. Even though his best often times wasn't seen as good enough for the fans. And quite honestly the fans' dissatisfaction at his performances only made me love him more.
I can be a bit of a contrarian about Villa matters sometimes. I think I was one of the last 1% of people who gave up on Paul Lambert. (I wasn't in that percentage for Tim Sherwood, but well, you know.) All the fan anger about the missed chances built up a feeling inside me that Heskey was "my guy". And when he scored, that was my guy who was doing it in the faces of the people who doubted him.
Admittedly, that's a bit of a foolish viewpoint to have. For one, Heskey just didn't score a lot of goals. Even in his prime, he wasn't a 20 goal a season striker. And even when he did score, the people that Heskey frustrated were probably just as happy as I was. It was still a goal for Aston Villa and Villa supporters are going to celebrate those.
I completely understand the people who probably think I'm crazy. I'm not even sure I'm making a coherent argument. You can tell me all you want that he was a bad Villa player. You're not wrong. But you also are wrong. Emile Heskey was and always will be awesome.