Stan Collymore has hit out at the stick given to Aston Villa striker Emile Heskey and hopes his return to scoring form will silence his critics.
Heskey has endured a testing first 12 months at Villa after his £3.5million switch from Wigan and has not always been guaranteed a first-team spot. But the England striker netted his first goal of the season in the recent draw at Burnley and was also on target in Tuesday's 4-2 win at Portsmouth in the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup.
Former Villa and England striker Collymore told Villa's official website: "I know Emile very well from our days at Leicester and I'll never forget the one game we had together. We beat Sunderland 5-2 and I scored a hat-trick. He set up a couple of my goals too. I'm certainly one of the band of strikers who have nothing but praise for him."
He added: "I was delighted to see him score his first goal of the season at Burnley and then follow it up the other night with another against Portsmouth in the Carling Cup.
"Hopefully those will silence his critics. He has had a lot of stick in recent weeks and in my opinion it's totally unjustified.
"While people cast doubts over his scoring record, I can't speak highly enough of him, and I'm sure you would get the same response from people like Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney.
"They have benefited enormously from playing alongside him with England.
"In terms of his overall contribution to a team, Emile is vastly underrated and he's very much a players' player.
"He is obviously an experienced player too, who can help to bring on Villa's youngsters and he's a nice lad who fits in well in the dressing room.
"Martin O'Neill has worked with him before so I reckon Villa will definitely get the best out of him."
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