ASHLEY YOUNG has jumped to the defence of Aston Villa striker Emile Heskey after he barged referee Mike Jones during the 1-1 home draw with Wigan.
The normally placid Heskey was incensed when not awarded a free-kick for a challenge on him by Latics defender Antolin Alcaraz on Saturday. He pushed into Mike Jones and was fortunate to escape with only a yellow card.
Villa caretaker boss Gary McAllister substituted Heskey at half time for fear of being reduced to 10 men and the player left the stadium and did not watch the second 45 minutes.
A tense match ended 1-1 after Young’s free-kick cancelled out Charles N’Zogbia’s opener.
Heskey’s behaviour dominated headlines but Young, who tried to calm Heskey down, believes he is the sort of character who would not react in such a way without a genuine reason.
He said: “I think a few things had gone on during the game.
“I think if you know Emile as a person, unless something has happened on the pitch he’s not going to turn like that.
“It’s one of those things. You want to calm him down and don’t want a player to get sent off and that’s what everyone was trying to do.
“Emile has been a true professional throughout his whole career and, like I say, he wouldn’t have just turned for no reason.
“He came into the changing room at half time and everyone has talked to him and he’s fine. We controlled him at half time and he will be back next week.
“He’s a true professional and he’s going to get on with his game.”
McAllister, who will be taking no disciplinary action against his former Liverpool team-mate Heskey, said: “Emile was feeling he wasn’t getting protection from the referee.
“He didn’t get it but it’s an over-the-top reaction.
“Knowing him the way I do, because he’s someone I admire and someone I have played with, and he’s a good friend as well, that wasn’t Emile.
“The decision to make a change at half time was purely for the team. We had to make sure we finished the game with 11 men.”
Young believes Villa can virtually banish thoughts of relegation after moving five points clear of the bottom three with two games remaining and having a superior goal difference.
He said: “Every point we get now is vitally important. We could have got the three points but it wasn’t to be. Hopefully that point will see us safe now.
“It’s not mathematically proven so we just have to keep going. We have got two games left with six points to play for and fingers crossed we can get what we need and keep looking up the table.”
Latics boss Roberto Martinez felt a tense atmosphere was down to the current plight of both clubs but his players felt Heskey should have been red carded.
He said: “The players want to win. Villa were safe but you play for your pride and individual situations, contracts, future, and that’s what it means.
“It is important. Sometimes we criticise players because they give the impression that they don’t care, that they are over-paid individuals.
“There is a real passion, people care about their careers and as professionals they show that in their performances.
“I don’t think there is anything wrong with that as long as you don’t step over the line.
“With Heskey and the ref, some of the players felt it was a red card offence but from our point of view, I’m getting used to that. We are not getting easy decisions going our way anyway.”
Martinez described next weekend’s clash with West Ham as “a cup final within a league programme” but has confidence in his players after recent performances.
He said: “I’m happy with the performance. You have to remember in the last 12 games we have played really, really well with great consistency in our performances.
“We have got a very young group of players but we’ve got great understanding, we work really hard and I’m very pleased.
“We are fighting for our lives and it’s a shame we haven’t got another 20 games to go because I feel that could really show our potential in the league.”
Heskey sweats over possible FA action
ASTON VILLA striker Emile Heskey must wait to find out whether he will face further disciplinary action after his behaviour in Saturday’s home clash with Wigan.
The former England player barged into referee Mike Jones during the first-half and escaped with a yellow card.
Heskey will not receive any further punishment for that outburst from the Football Association as Jones is deemed to have taken sufficient action as he saw the incident and acted.
But whether he faces any possible charge over his subsequent actions in the players’ tunnel will depend on whether Jones includes it in his match report.
An angry Heskey had to be restrained by team-mates and staff after leaving the pitch and was involved in an incident in the tunnel at half-time.
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