When Emile Heskey left Liverpool last summer he did so with epithets like ' Anfield flop' and 'Merseysidemisfit' ringing in his ears. When he left England's Euro 2004 party the criticism was a lot less restrained.
But Birmingham City manager Steve Bruce saw enough in the powerful striker to part with the £6.25 million it took to bring him to St Andrew's and when the 27-year-old returns to the international fold later today, it will look like money well spent.
After a slow start to his Birmingham career Heskey has been in resurgent form recently, defying the debilitating effects of a nagging injury, to re-establish himself as one of the best leaders of the forward line in the country.
His last outing in the royal blue, in Sunday's 2-0 win over Aston Villa, was typically dynamic and was enough to convince England manager Sven-G^ran Eriksson that his rehabilitation was complete.
" Heskey deserves his chance," said Eriksson last night. "He has been playing very well recently and scoring goals.
"If he is in good form he is always a useful player to have around because of how he is built and when he is showing a good fighting spirit he is always and handful."
It is a theme that the men who used to fear him as an opponent but now fawn on him as a team-mate are happy to develop.
Birmingham left- back Jamie Clapham is the latest to add his voice to the chorus of plaudits that have followed Heskey's goal-scoring performance in the Second City derby at the weekend.
Clapham is aware of Heskey's deficiencies, that he doesn't find the back of the net as often as he should, but is convinced that his qualities more than compensate.
In fact the defender refutes the suggestion that Heskey did not fulfil his potential at Liverpool. "Emile works to his strengths," said Clapham.
"There was no better partner for him at Liverpool than Michael Owen. Emile did all the dirty work but Owen got all the credit.
"Emile's ability is there for all to see. He was maybe fortunate with the goal against Villa but his work-rate, his ability in the air, and his strengths - they are exactly what we need."
Heskey was one of five players - David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Stewart Downing and Jamie Carragher are the others - who did not join up with the rest of the England squad yesterday having played in Sunday's derby.
Former Blues striker Andrew Johnson, who was given his international debut on the right wing in last month's dire 0-0 draw with Holland, had to drop out last night after failing to shake off a foot injury.
Johnson missed yesterday's training session and, after being assessed by England's medical staff, it was decided he should return to Crystal Palace to recuperate.
"It is good to have Heskey as well because we have lost Andrew Johnson," said Eriksson.
"He [Johnson] is better taking treatment at home. We were aware of it. We were told he would be able to train on probably Thursday or Friday but after the scan we decided it was a risk we did not want to take."
With Johnson out of the picture that leaves Heskey as one of four strikers jostling for what could be as many as three starting roles.
During England's last World Cup match at Old Trafford, October's 2-0 win over Wales, Eriksson opted to play Jermain Defoe, Wayne Rooney and Owen up front in a three-pronged attack.
Owen and Rooney are certainties to start and, formation permitting, that could leave the Swede choosing between the Birmingham man's physicality and Defoe's ability in front of goal.
If Heskey does play it will be his first appearance in an England shirt since his illfated introduction as a substitute in the Euro 2004 group match with France.
The big striker came on with 14 minutes remaining and with his side leading 1-0. His only contribution of note was to give away the foul from which Zinedine Zidane equalised before Zidane converted a last-minute penalty to steal a victory.