Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Ricky Lambert relishing chance on big stage

In dreamland: Ricky Lambert at the England training base in Portugal preparing for the World Cup finals

Rickie Lambert is living in a dream world right now, having completed the journey from the scrapheap to secure a place in England's World Cup squad.

The story of how the striker spent time working in a beetroot factory has almost become cliched but encapsulates his Roy of the Rovers rise.

Lambert worked there after being released by Blackpool in 2000, before going on to spend time at Macclesfield, Stockport, Rochdale and Bristol Rovers before making a £1million move to Southampton five years ago.

At that point the striker's "whole lifestyle changed" as he began the transformation from lower-league marksman to one of the most consistent goalscorers in the Premier League.

Despite that, Lambert gave himself only a 50-50 chance of going to Brazil ahead of Andy Carroll, so when the call came from Roy Hodgson the 32-year-old was understandably emotional.

"I have been here for a few days and it is a dream come true, it is as simple as that," he said at England's training base in Portugal.

"It means everything to me and it is the best moment of my career and I am enjoying every minute.

"I am going to enjoy every minute of it, especially the games. The first game against Italy, the atmosphere – that is what I have dreamt of all my life and now I am going to be there. "They are the moments that will live with me for the rest of my life."

Lambert has flourished under the management of Alan Pardew, Nigel Adkins and Mauricio Pochettino, scoring more than 100 goals for Southampton in the process.

The frontman has shone despite continually being written off, although it had looked even a year ago as if an international call-up would be beyond him.

Having been overlooked despite a fine debut Premier League season, Lambert poked fun at his situation by making out he was committing his future to the New Zealand national team.

That, though, was an April Fool's joke and one which Roy Hodgson may well have taken note of, handing him his first England cap four-and-a-half months later.

There are now three Saints players in the 23-man England squad, with team-mates Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw living together at the club's Vale do Lobo training camp.

As the youngest, 18-year-old Shaw got the smallest bed of the trio but has earned Lambert's unwavering respect.

"It is frightening what he has done in a year," he said of the left-back. "When he first joined the first team he took it so well and his progression has been frightening.

"His attitude is spot on and I know for a fact that he's going to keep that attitude."

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