Leicester Women’s new head of football development Emile Heskey says the club are hoping to follow Chelsea’s example and become one of the biggest sides in the Women’s Super League (WSL).
Leicester’s trip to Kingsmeadow to take on champions Chelsea – live on Sky Sports on Sunday – will be just their fifth match as a top-flight side following their promotion from the Women’s Championship last season.
In contrast, their opponents on Sunday are four-time WSL champions and last season’s runners-up in the Women’s Champions League.
Heskey – who was appointed to his new role last week – says Leicester are aspiring to reach Chelsea’s level, although he also urged patience in what is only the side’s second season as professionals.
In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports, he lauded Chelsea as a “huge club”, adding: “[They’ve] really backed their women’s football.
“Got a fantastic manager, great players. [That] is where you want to be, but they’ve been doing that for 10, 12 years.
“This is our second year professionally, so we’re building, and the fact the club are backing us this way is brilliant.”
Leicester go into the game against Chelsea – who sit third in the WSL – still searching for their first win after starting the season with four successive defeats.
But Heskey says their early season struggles were to be expected and believes their first WSL victory is just a matter of time.
“They’re very close to getting that first win, and that will just breed confidence,” he said. “The girls have been fantastic.
“We knew it was going to be a massive step up, and the manager knew that. But we have been playing well.
“That first result will be brilliant for us and will just be that stepping stone to go onto bigger and better things.”
Part of Heskey’s job is to oversee the performance of the women’s team, as well as being responsible for coaching and recruitment.
His appointment helps to fill the hole left by previous head of women’s football Russ Fraser, who joined Liverpool Women as their new director of football.
Former Leicester striker Heskey began his professional career with the Foxes before moving to Liverpool in 2000, and he has praised the club for their commitment to their women’s team.
He said: “Even if it wasn’t me heading it all up, they’ve committed to it. I think the club have been fantastic, really putting their backing behind it.
“This is Leicester City, it’s not the men’s and the women’s. We want it to be the same and that’s something the club have said time and time again.
“I have a connection with the men’s side and a lot of people are still there from when I was playing, so I know a lot of these people.
“We’re going to tap into the resources in the men’s side. You’re looking at recruitment and all these best practices – they’ve known it for years. Their recruitment has been fantastic, so we can tap into that. I’ll be the bridge.”
Heskey moved into his head of football development position following 12 months in an ambassadorial job with the women’s side, making him one of the only Black people in an executive role in English football.
The 43-year-old hopes he can pave the way for others, saying: “You’ve got the likes of Les Ferdinand (QPR director of football) up there and people are aspiring to be like him.
“Can I be the next one? I hope so, but we’ve got to put ourselves out there to be there. Les is one person that I look up to.”