Emile Heskey’s England snub is Fabio Capello’s loss and Aston Villa's gain, according to the striker’s club captain.
Heskey has rejected Capello’s request to step straight back out of international retirement for next week’s Euro qualifier against Montenegro.
The 32-year-old targetman quit the Three Lions in mid-July with 62 caps and seven goals after the nation’s World Cup disappointment.
And Villa skipper Stiliyan Petrov hopes the claret and blues will continue to benefit from Heskey’s decision to hang up his international boots.
Asked if England will regret Heskey’s refusal to return to Capello’s squad, Petrov replied: “Yes, I think so.
“Because every time he was playing up front he helped the people playing around him.
“He linked very well with Michael Owen, with Wayne Rooney and with everyone he played with.
“People don’t give him credit. He works hard every day and he has been a top striker for years in the Premier League.
“He is very underrated, but he has been fighting and he doesn’t pay attention to all this.”
Petrov insists Heskey has always been highly regarded in the Villa dressing even if the wider football world has often failed to appreciate his ability.
The Bulgarian midfielder reckons England fans might only start to realise how important Heskey was to the national team now that he has gone.
“It is strange,” he said. “Everybody has got their own opinion.
“My opinion is as his team-mate. I know how hard he is working and I know how important he is for our team. I know how important he is for England.
“You appreciate things when you do not have them and we are really happy to have Emile in our team.
“It’s bad. Nobody likes being criticised, but Emile put his head down and worked. He never came out in the papers complaining.
“He worked and he showed why all this work pays off.”
Heskey continued his fine form by setting up Marc Albrighton’s opener at Spurs on Saturday, but he limped off with a dead leg to complete a frustrating afternoon as Villa lost 2-1.
It is a concern for Houllier with his other two senior strikers also battling early-season injury problems. Gabby Agbonlahor is scheduled for a groin operation today, while John Carew will report for international duty with Norway suffering with persistent back and knee problems.
Despite Saturday’s result, Houllier was pleased with the performance which he felt was an improvement on the wins over Blackburn and Wolves.
“Funnily enough this is the best of the first three,” he said. “You might find that is funny, but it is the best.
“The ball started from the back went into midfield and we don’t skip stations.
“Sometimes we have to clear and play long balls but we played good entertaining football – as they did because they are a good team as well. A draw would have been a really good result.
“To me it was a good test of football because this Tottenham team is honestly slightly superior to ours, but I think we gave a good account of ourselves and at times we passed the ball extremely well.”
Ciaran Clark is expected to pledge his international allegiance to the Reublic of Ireland and receive his first senior call up today despite playing for England up to under-20 level.