Rickie Lambert

Rickie Lambert was born in Fazakerley Liverpool on 16th February 1982. The tall striker began his career at Blackpool. Lambert made his debut for the Seasiders on 7th August 1999 as a substitute against Wrexham. He would only featured in a further 2 matches at the Bloomfield Road outfit that season however, and was eventually released by the club in November 2000.

After spending a couple of months without a club, Lambert finally returned to football in March 2001 with Macclesfield. He struggled to make an impact during the remainder of 2000/01 season, failing to get on the score sheet in 9 appearances. Things improved for Lambert the following season at the Division 3 club however, as he netted 10 times from 40 matches. He bagged his first 2 goals in an FA Cup match against Forest Green. He went one better on November 24th where he blasted 3 past Luton

Lambert's impressive Macclesfield form saw him move to Division 2 outfit Stockport County in a £300,000 deal in the 2002/03 close season. Lambert had a disappointing first campaign at Edgely Park however, scoring just twice. He did manage a goal against former club Blackpool however. Things got better for him during 2003/04 when he netted 13 goals. Lambert was particularly impressive during a run of 8 games between March and April where he scored 7 times.

Lambert didn't fare quite so well for Stockport during 2004/05 and found himself back in the fourth tier by February 2005, when he signed for Rochdale. He had the best spell of his career up to that point with Dale, scoring 6 goals during the remainder of the season. The following campaign saw Lambert finish with his best goal tally to date, 22 from 50 matches. Lambert would later say his run at Spotland saved his career.

Lambert began the 2006/07 season still a Rochdale player until his transfer to Bristol Rovers on the August 31st deadline. After initially starting slowly at The Memorial Ground, Lambert played a key role in Rovers League 2 play-off promotion that season. He scored in the incredible 5-3 win at Lincoln in the play-off semi final second leg, which put Rovers into the final at Wembley against Shrewsbury. Rovers won that game 3-1, which meant they and Lambert were now back in League 1.

Lambert proved he was more than capable of scoring goals in League 1, after finishing the 2007/08 season with 19. By now he was proving to be a bit of an expert when it came to set pieces, both with penalties and free kicks. One of those free kicks came in the FA Cup 5th round against Southampton in a 1-0 win which sent Rovers to the Quarter Finals. The next season got even better with Lambert netting an incredible 29 times. The highlight of the 2008/09 season came in a match against Southend where he scored all of Rovers goals in a 4-2 win.

During the summer of 2009 speculation began to mount that Lambert was set for a move away from The Pirates. Middlesbrough were rumoured to be interested, but it was Southampton who completed the deal to sign the forward on August 10th. Two days earlier Lambert had played his final match for Rovers, scoring against Leyton Orient. He managed a goal on his Saints debut too, in the Carling Cup against Northampton. He also netted in his first league game at Huddersfield.

Lambert instantly became a fans favourite at St Mary's and a key part of Alan Pardew's side. Often the team was set up in order to bring the best out of the giant front man, and it worked. Lambert scored an incredible 37 goals in all competitions for Southampton in 2009/10. He hit two penalties past Yeovil in Southampton's first victory of the season in September. He proved he could hang with the big boys when he put in a superb performance in the FA Cup defeat to Premiership strugglers and deadly rivals Portsmouth, a match in which he grabbed yet another goal. By this time manager Alan Pardew noted Lambert's improvement from when he had first joined the club. Pardew described him as overweight when he signed, but the Liverpudlian's work rate improved considerably as did his overall game. Lambert scored his first hatrick for The Saints on 20th March at MK Dons. His third goal that day was considered one of the best of the League 1 campaign. Lambert also scored a penalty in the Football League Trophy final victory against Carlisle. He closed the season with two more successful strikes against Southend on the final day. Lambert was deservedly voted player of the season.

Before the start of the 2010/11 season Lambert suffered an injury which kept him out of the opening day defeat to Plymouth. On his return he managed goals against Leyton Orient and Bristol Rovers, but he looked off the pace, possibly suffering the effects of an unfinished pre season. Lambert would then enter the worst run of form at the club to date and didn't score in the next seven games, something that would have been unthinkable in the previous campaign. He did hit four goals in the following five matches, although three of those were penalties. He still wasn't the same player he was previously, and went another seven games without a goal. It wasn't until his superb strike against Huddersfield on December 28th that Saints fans saw the Lambert that they knew and loved from the previous campaign. Indeed Lambert was back to his best in the second half of the season, regularly banging them in. He scored two key goals at Exeter in February as Saints came from a goal down to snatch a late win. Lambert scored a number of vital goals in the final weeks of 2010/11, including his first free kick of the season in a 3-1 win over Bournemouth on 12th March. He also contributed with strikes against Leyton Orient and Hartlepool, and a brace at Plymouth in May, which helped to secure promotion to the Championship.

On 1st July 2011 Southampton announced Rickie Lambert had signed a new three year contract, keeping him at the club until 2014. Some had doubts over Lambert's Championship capabilities before the campaign began. Southampton's goal machine had yet to play above the bottom two divisions, and had it all to prove. Those doubters were silenced very early on. Lambert opened his account for 2011/12 with a free-kick against Torquay on 9th August in the Carling Cup. His first league goals came a week later in a 5-2 win at Ipswich. Lambert had a rare off-day at Leicester on 27th August, scoring an own goal in a 3-2 loss. He battled back to score three days later in the League Cup at Swindon. The goals continued to flow the following month. An impressive hatrick on 10th September saw off Nottingham Forest. Lambert also scored in a 4-1 win over Birmingham on 18th September.

Lambert has never lacked confidence in front of goal. Other aspects of his game were missing on his August 2009 arrival. Not during 2011/12 however. As well as being a great finisher, strong in the air, and great at holding up the ball, Lambert also possessed a great football brain and linked up play expertly. He was just as comfortable playing as an out and out target man as he was in a deeper role, where he needs to be more creative. You'd think someone who scores so many goals must be a quite a selfish player? Not so. Lambert was just as much a team player as everyone else. He provided 14 assists in Championship competition during 2011/12, more than any other Saints player. Only Robert Snodgrass and Chris Burke set up more goals in the division.

Lambert kicked off October with a double over Watford, and an equaliser at Derby. He then entered a bit of a goal-drought, although his general play was so good nobody really noticed. On 19th November Lambert scored his second hatrick of the season against Brighton. Two of those goals that day were penalties.

While it would be unfair to say Saints were a one-man team during 2011/12, nobody can deny Lambert was vitally important to the way the side played. Whether the full backs were launching long balls from deep, or the midfield were trying to intricately play their way through, everything was geared towards getting the best out of Lambert. The other first team strikers on the books at St Marys were good players, but they didn't possess the presence and all round game that Lambert did. Never was than more evident on 3rd December at Doncaster when the Liverpudlian was missing through injury. The team just didn't know how to adapt, and lacked ideas in the final third. The same can be said of the defeat at Blackpool later in the campaign when Lambert was rested.

Unfortunately Lambert's goal at Fratton Park on December 18th wasn't enough to help Saints secure all three points. The Southampton number seven was sent off on January 2nd for lashing out at Brighton's Adam El-Abd. It was a foolish, but understandable reaction. Lambert had been manhandled all game, yet even the most obvious foul went unpunished by the referee. His frustration got the better of him. In truth Lambert got very little protection from grabby defenders all season.

Lambert returned from suspension with a goal in the FA Cup at Millwall. He then netted an important penalty in a 1-1 draw with fellow promotion hopefuls Cardiff. His strike against Millwall on 7th February couldn't stop Saints from crashing out of the Cup. He ended February with yet another hatrick at Watford.

March was perhaps Lambert's most impressive month of the season. Tadanari Lee set him up for a perfectly executed volley at Leeds in a smash and grab win. A few days later Lambert opened the scoring in a 1-1 draw with Ipswich. Then came the match with Millwall on 17th March. Lambert opened the scoring on 16 minutes and it looked as if Saints were heading for a routine victory. That was until the team proceeded to collapse. Saints fell behind 2-1 and looked as poor as they had done all season. Then with less than 5 minutes to go Adkins's men were awarded two penalties. Even the ice cool Lambert would have been forgiven for being nervous in such a pressurised situation. If he was apprehensive he didn't show it. Lambert tucked away both his spot kicks to give Saints an unlikely win. It turned out to be one of the most important moments of the season. Saints had been poor for most of the match, but came away with maximum points thanks to Lambert.

Lambert's standing with Saints fans couldn't have much higher going into April 2012. He was given a hero's welcome before the clash with rivals Pompey. Lambert had been an injury doubt before the game, so the news that he was playing was greeted with great delight by those in red and white inside St Marys. He didn't score that day, but found the net twice two days later in a 2-0 win at Palace. Lambert scored in the unfortunate 3-1 defeat to eventual champions Reading on 13th April. He was a class above in the 3-1 triumph at Peterborough on 17th April. Lambert was surprisingly off-colour at Middlesbrough on 21st April, but looked much better in the promotion clinching game with Coventry a week later.

He was deservedly named the Football League's best player for 2011/12. Lambert was also voted fans player of the season for the second time in three years.

Lambert looked out of sorts in 2012/13 pre-season. He started on the bench for the opener at Man City, before coming on to immediately equalise. Any doubts about Lambert's Premier League capabilities were quickly put to bed. He headed the opener against Man United in September, before netting twice in the first win over Aston Villa. Lambert was controversially subbed off in the 2-2 draw with Fulham, and then dropped at West Ham. The number seven quickly bounced back, and was unlucky not to score in the 2-0 defeat at West Brom. He popped up in the box for two important goals against QPR and Norwich in November. Lambert put in a quiet showing at boyhood club Liverpool on December 1st 2012, but helped secure points with goals at Fulham and Stoke just after Christmas. Entered his most impressive spell of the season in early 2013. A penalty helped seal a rare away win at Villa on January 12th. Four days later Lambert came off the bench to score at Chelsea. He was unlucky not too add to his tally against Everton and Man United. Lambert's off the ball movement was superb throughout this time. He bagged an equaliser at Wigan on February 2nd, before putting in a typically powerful display over Man City a week later. He then scored his 100th goal in a defeat at Newcastle on February 25th 2013. Lambert's stock could have hardly been higher following consecutive free-kicks over Liverpool and Chelsea in March. He provided a wonderful assist for Jay Rodriguez at Reading. He struggled during the last few weeks of the season. Was said to have been carrying a knock, which would have explained the dip in form.

On 8th August 2013 Lambert was called up to the England squad for the first time. Lambert netted just seconds after coming on as a substitute, helping England to a 3-2 Wembley win over Scotland on 14th August 2013. He nearly netted a second in stoppage time, hitting the post inside the penalty area.