So Rickie Lambert has finally been called up to the England squad and not before time!
Of course there will be fans around the country that think Roy Hodgson has finally lost the plot in selecting, as I read from someone yesterday, “a 31 year old journeyman” (despite the fact he’s had two clubs in the last seven years!!) but the majority of football fans and pundits I’ve seen have been quick to praise Hodgson for finally giving Lambert the chance has commitment and dedication has deserved.
It’s a real ‘Roy of the Rovers’ story for Rickie, from his humble beginnings as a footballer released by Blackpool in 2000, deemed not good enough, to then becoming a beetroot picker whilst building up his football confidence from rock bottom. Now, 13 years on, he can enjoy the fact that he has reached the top, was the leading English goalscorer in the Premier League last season and , hopefully this time next week, will have an international cap in his ever growing portfolio.
For a player that cost Saints just £1m in 2009 it has been a rapid rise to the top but one that, as has been noted by all, has been purely down to all the hard work he has put in on and off the pitch. Saints fans are still very thankful to Alan Pardew that he saw fit to sign Lambert when he did and, ever since his first goal against Northampton in the League Cup on his debut in August 2009, he has scored goals for fun.
But Rickie Lambert won’t be your typical England player though. Nope!
Lambert is a hard-working, committed and dedicated professional who is never seen in the public limelight (for either the right or wrong reasons!). He is just someone who turns up on a Saturday, pulls on the Saints shirt, gives his all for the club and then goes home quietly to his ever-growing family. He is a very gracious individual who doesn’t, to me, believe he is as good as he is. You won’t see Lambert in the papers out drunk, or involved in fights or pictured with a different WAG every night, no, Rickie is a dedicated professional who just loves playing football and improving as much as he can and worrying more about helping the team than helping himself!
But what will England be getting in Rickie Lambert?
Firstly there is no doubting to me that Lambert, unlike some previously, will be an individual who takes pride in wearing the England shirt and won’t take it for granted. He will give 100% on the pitch, should he play, and will want to show the nation what he can do.
He is a great hold-up player but I wouldn’t say he is just a target man! He has, as was notoriously said about Peter Crouch, “a great touch for a big man”, can strike a ball with unerring power, win headers in the air, close down defenders and create opportunities for others. He is a team player! But give him a chance in front of goal and the ball will be in the back of the net before the keeper can even think about saving it! Alongside this he has worked very hard on his fitness and is now leaner, and I’d say meaner, than ever before.
He has become an icon in his four years at Saints. An inspiration to fans young and old. Someone that, if he’s on the pitch, you know your team has a chance of getting something from any game situation.
Lambert’s inclusion in the England squad, after far too long in my opinion, should be motivation for any footballer out there (whether 19 or 29!) that if you work hard and dedicate yourself to your profession then anything is possible.
I am so pleased and proud that Rickie has finally been given the chance to represent his country and, if he does get on the pitch, all I would say is Scotland beware!!
By Ben Stanfield, FanZone’s Southampton blogger. Follow Ben on Twitter at @benstanners.