They say good things come to those who wait, and boy did that happen to Rickie Lambert!
What an occasion it turned out to be for the former beetroot picker, as he thumped home a header with his first touch in International football, giving England victory over the Auld enemy, Scotland.
I, like many Saints fans (and no doubt Rochdale and Bristol Rovers fans too!) was full of pride after the game at just how fantastically it had gone for him. You couldn’t have written the script any better!
Rickie is a natural goalscorer and natural goalscorers will always score goals at any level but you have to be given the chance, the occasion, the moment to be able to do it.
Being called into the National squad (admittedly because those ahead of him in the pecking order were unavailable at that time) was a great reward for his efforts over the last 12 months but no-one would have wanted to see him sat on the bench for the entire 90 minutes.
He was never going to get a better chance to prove to the England hierarchy, the nation and to himself that he could do it on the International stage and he certainly made the most of it.
As soon as the ball hit the back of the net, after Leighton Baines corner had picked him out perfectly, I thought to myself “that was Rickie!”. Before I even had a chance to say it out loud the commentator had told me and everyone what they wanted to hear “Lamberttttt!”.
I, like many other thousands of Saints fans around the World, let out a cheer in front of the TV at home that would have been befitting of any football stadium on any Saturday! I dread to think what the neighbours thought, but who cares!
For someone like Rickie, who has worked so hard on his technical ability and personal fitness since the day he joined Saints, it was so pleasing to see.
He got a great reception when he entered the pitch, and made them cheer even louder barely 3 minutes later.
Rickie didn’t look out of place at all for the time he was on the pitch. The goal of course gave him confidence, but his touch was assured and his hold-up play as good as we know it can be. Of course, with all due respect, England will play tougher sides than Scotland over the coming few months and, if selected, then Lambert may well have to up his game even further but I strongly believe he can do it.
More importantly he deserves all the praise that he is getting in the press. I just hope that Hodgson, Gary Neville and the rest of the England selection panel will now see him as someone that isn’t just a ‘fill in’ but someone who should be in the squad on merit. The ‘shirt’ should be his to lose as they say. He most definitely deserves another chance again now.
As for Rickie himself, knowing how humble and shy he is, I dare say he will have turned up to a barrage of enthusiasm and well-wishers at Saints training ground and been thoroughly embarrassed by it all! He just isn’t a character that you can associate with arrogance and showmanship!
Rickie, after all, is a man that gives his all for his Club each week and now, we can thankfully say, his country too. A man that represents all of us out there that would love to pull on our country’s shirt and give the 100% effort that so many of them lack by taking it all for granted. A player that we can all associate with as a ‘normal bloke working as hard as he can to be successful’.
Southampton Football Club, and within that its staff and its fans, is one heck of a proud place to be today and that is purely down to what Rickie has achieved. Nigel Adkins started the “together as one” phrase in relation to our great Club several years ago and never have we been as together as we are now.
Now let’s hope Rickie, and the rest of the lads, can take that enthusiasm and positivity into the start of the Premier League on Saturday!