Tony Cottee "can't get his head around" why Heskey is viewed as a laughing stock

Ex-Leicester City player tells Off The Ball why former England striker is vastly under-appreciated

Leicester City, Martin O'Neill, Emile Heskey, Tony Cottee

Leicester City manager Martin O'Neill is congratulated by Emile Heskey and Tony Cottee after being named Carling's manger of the month Photo: RUI VIEIRA/PA

Former Leicester, Everton and West Ham forward Tony Cottee says he can't understand the criticism his former Foxes strike partner Emile Heskey has received over the years.

The seven-time England cap, who scored 275 goals in English football - mostly in the top flight - joined Off The Ball ahead of the Leicester' match with West Brom, as he looked back on a career which saw him play for current Ireland manager Martin O'Neill at the Foxes.

The 50-year-old enjoyed a strong partnership with the oft-lampooned former England striker Heskey and feels criticism of the former Liverpool player is unwarranted.

"I think he was a great player. I think Emile is unfortunately much-maligned. Even nowadays when I do my after-dinner speeches, you mention the words Emile Heskey and everyone starts laughing and you can't quite get your head around it. I think the problem Emile had was he was almost too much of a team player," said Cottee, adding that "on his day, he was a good finisher".

Cottee also explained that O'Neill "loved Heskey to bits" and said he "thankful" for how Heskey's selflessness helped him find the net.

As for the current Leicester team, Cottee says that like many people, he was wrong to doubt Claudio Ranieri's appointment as the Italian has defied expectations to guide Leicester to the summit of the Premier League.

And he feels that striker Jamie Vardy is "in the Top 3 finishers in the country" at present alongside Sergio Aguero and Harry Kane.

"One thing that Jamie does naturally that I didn't do, he works his socks off for the team. I was told and I had to learn to do that," said Cottee, who now feels Leicester have to find a way to get past teams that will sit deep against them in the title run-in.