I have been a big fan of Southampton striker Rickie Lambert for a good while now. Even when he was playing for Bristol Rovers he caught the eye.
Yet it seems that he has only come to the attention of the England coaching staff in the last few months.
Lambert has now scored two goals in two games for England and on Friday night set-up two of England’s goals in the 4-0 win over Moldova in a World Cup qualifying.
Last season Norwich captain (at the time) Grant Holt asked the question why was Rickie Lambert not in the England squad?
As like Holt the previous season, had performed superbly for his club in the English top-flight, but was completely ignored by the England hierarchy.
I picked up on this and wrote an article about how Lambert deserved recognition for his performances. I believe that was around nine months ago and only now is Lambert receiving the praise he deserves.
People may look at Rickie Lambert and believe that he is just a target man striker. Just because he has come through the lower leagues certain football snobs have this idea that he must be limited in his talent. They could not be more wrong.
Rickie Lambert has an astute football brain, he holds the ball up brings teammates into play and comes deep to create chances. He is not just a lump of a striker that sits in the penalty area waiting for the ball to land at his feet.
He seeks out the ball and is unselfish in his play. Lambert may have scored 15 goals last season for the Saints, but he provided far more than that by being the main focal point of their attack.
At 31 years old the Kirkby-born striker has finally made it to the promised land of the Premier League and the England team. It seems the penny has dropped in the last few years. Lambert has admitted that he has matured as a person in the last few years and it has helped him become a better player.
He has found a consistency of performance in his game that was previously missing. He has always had talent, but who knows what might have been if he would have applied himself slightly harder in his younger days.
The Saints striker got there in the end and he has now become vital to the England cause. The Three Lions have something of a striker crisis at the moment with a vital World Cup qualifier in Ukraine on Tuesday night.
Wayne Rooney and Andy Carroll are out injured, while Liverpool’s in-form Daniel Sturridge is also currently struggling to be fit for the clash. To add to that Danny Welbeck will be serving a suspension for receiving a second yellow card of the group against Moldova. That leaves England boss Roy Hodgson with very limited options.
Tottenham’s Jermain Defoe is probably the most likely alternative to Lambert in the lone striker role, but it seems that Defoe’s lack of first team action this season could work against him. Lambert now looks to be in pole position for the lone striker berth.
Lambert fully deserves his chance and I am sure he will not anybody down in the role. He has played the lone striker role for much of his Southampton career, albeit some of the time in the lower leagues.
The striker is perfect for the role of lone striker, because of the way he brings teammates into the game, an attribute vital in games like the one on Tuesday. It will not be an easy game for England, but Lambert will probably take it in his stride, just like he has his rise to the England team.
It has been a long hard slog for Rickie Lambert to make it to the top-flight of English football and the England team. You can see in his goal celebrations what it means to him to be playing for the Three Lions.
Lambert is an example to all those lower leagues players out there that anything can be achieved with a touch of confidence and positive mental attitude. Rickie Lambert England’s first choice striker, it may not last long, but it definitely has a ring to it and the Saints striker fully deserves the recognition.
Why has it taken so long for England to call-up Rickie Lambert?