Author : paarth dubey
England striker Rickie Lambert
Every football fan loves a story. Be it a scandal, a protracted transfer drama or the news of a rift between players. But ever so occasionally comes along a story that really warms the heart up.
For this writer, that story right now is the tale of Rickie Lambert. The former beetroot-factory bottler is, in no uncertain terms, living his dream.
Aged 31, Lambert is not your normal run-of-the-mill player. He is someone who has seen the underbelly of football. He is a rarity in English football. He is a player who has played in all the four divisions of English football.
He is of the same age as England’s ‘Golden Generation’. But while they were earning obnoxious amounts of money and playing for the top clubs in the world, Lambert was working hard to be better.
He started off his career at Liverpool but was released at the age of 15. He then went on to try his luck at Blackpool. But was released by their manager at the time, Steve McMahon.
What followed was a torrid time for Rickie. He was out of football and worked as a bottler at a beetroot factory. Roy Hodgson aptly remarked earlier this week, “He has also seen the fact that if you are not in football, what life has to offer is maybe not as good comparably.”
But he got a break when Third division team Macclesfield town signed him. He performed decently enough in the beginning and in the next season he became a first team regular.
Stockport County(second division) broke their transfer record to get Lambert’s services. In two and a half seasons at Stockport, he was never prolific but was consistent enough to merit a starting place regularly.
Although Lambert was considered a decent player, he opted to go down a division to Rochdale where he was the mainstay of the team for the solitary full season he spent there. At Rochdale his scoring improved, and he managed 28 goals in 64 appearances.
Bristol Rovers(League one) then bought him and Lambert was again a key player of the team. In the three seasons he spent there, he managed 59 goals and was nominated for the PFA League one team of the year.
But by now, Lambert was not just your usual tall and burly striker. He had understood he needed more to compliment his physique. He developed the ability to drop off and link up play with the midfield. His passing skills and range improved greatly and so did his dead-ball abilities.
From Bristol, Lambert was picked up by Southampton (also in League one at the time). And Lambert was arguably at the peak of his footballing prowess. He completed the 2009-10 season as the highest scorer in all four divisions of England with 31 goals.
Lambert was pivotal in Southampton’s push for promotion to the Championship. In his first season in the championship, he scored 31 goals and was named PFA Championship player of the year. Again he was central to Southampton’s promotion to the Premier League. In the Premier League too, he scored on his very first outing against Manchester City.
What the Premier League saw that season was a determined man leading the Southampton line. A tall, burly, physical striker who was not afraid of playing it dirty. A striker who had a deft first touch and an eye for a scoring pass. A man who knew what his strengths were and played accordingly. A man with exceptional skills over a dead ball, he could not bend it like Beckham but was pretty effective all the same. A man with mental fortitude who was not scared of missing.
A man who had seen the worst and was enjoying the best, though he could not have known that life would get better. But it did.
The man who had scored in all four divisions of English football was called up for the national team. He was brought on as a substitute against arch-rivals Scotland, and like a fairy tale unfolding, it was he who scored the crucial goal which won England the match.
Lambert was then handed a full start against Moldova and he showed how good he was. He scored a poacher’s goal to get his name on the score-sheet and wrecked havoc within the Moldovan defense all night. He supplied two sublime through balls to Danny Welbeck, both of which the Manchester United striker converted.
The man who was released from Blackpool more than a decade ago, will lead the line for the Three Lions in a crucial qualifier at Kiev. I am sure life cannot become more of a fairytale than that.
Typically, he is humble and says he still has a lot to prove. He is right, and it remains how well he can do against better defenders, although if his performances against top Premier League sides are a barometer, he can’t do too badly.
The story of Rickie Lee Lambert teaches us a lot. I hate to sound like a motivational teacher, but it teaches us never to lose hope. It teaches us that hard work and perseverance are keys to success.
It teaches us that no dream is ever too big to achieve. From the position of a beetroot factory bottler to the main striker for the English national team, Rickie Lambert has not only given us a footballing lesson, but a lesson for life too.