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Rickie Lambert's fairytale has so much further left to run
INCREDIBLE. Stunning. Almost unbelievable.
Rickie Lambert’s England debut, like so much of his Roy of the Rovers footballing story, was a fairytale occasion.
It had a bit of everything, from the hype to the nerves to the glory.
Before the game Lambert looked a bit like the new kid at school.
He seemed to feel almost out of place, as if he was looking around wondering just how he got here, warming up alongside seasoned England pros who he had watched on TV as a third tier player only able to dream of this day.
The atmosphere was awesome too, and surely that was weighing on Lambert.
He took up his place in the centre of the back row of the England bench for the first half, before getting out on to the pitch at half-time.
There was a pretty big hint his big moment was coming.
He was one of only five England subs to warm up during the break and just three minutes into the second period he was back out preparing himself on the touchline.
That looked like the most agonising part.
Lambert had clearly been told he was going to come on at some point, but he didn’t know when.
Every minute or so he would glance over to the bench, hoping to see the hand wave that would signal his England debut.
He kept being left disappointed, his warm-up getting ever more lacklustre as he tried not to wear himself out before he even got on.
Eventually the moment came.
With the game 65 minutes old Gary Neville walked into the technical area and signalled to both Lambert and James Milner.
Just moments later they were ready for action, Lambert on for Wayne Rooney as the focal point of the England attack.
Those initial moments Lambert looked keen, but was merely chasing the ball.
When it came to him the result was explosive.
Just three minutes after he was introduced Leighton Baines hit an outswinging left-footed corner, Lambert was left unmarked and rose beautifully to arrow a header into the bottom corner of the net.
Lambert looked as if he didn’t know what to do.
He ran one way, then the other, then the other again.
He was shouting for joy, mobbed by his teammates and that smile so familiar to Saints fans was painted across his face.
It almost got even better.
In injury time he was found by Wilfried Zaha’s low cross and his first time finish was kept out only by the post.
Moments later he forced Alan McGregor into a save.
When the final whistle went his name rung around the ground.
The cameras were in his faces, his superstar teammates were queueing up to congratulate him and he was immediately led off for pitch-side interviews.
The world was waking up to Lambert, not that the Scotland fans, whose boos drowned out his words over the PA system, seemed to appreciate it too much.
Lambert’s goal was all the more important as it was the winner in the renewed England v Scotland rivalry.
It was a cracking friendly game.
Lambert was only able to watch from the sidelines as the first four goals of the game went in.
James Morrison gave ex-Saints manager Gordon Strachan’s Scotland the lead on 11 minutes with a shot from 20 yards that Joe Hart should have kept out.
Former Saint Theo Walcott levelled things up on 29 minutes as he cut on to his left foot and finished low past the keeper.
Kenny Miller put Scotland back in front four minutes after the restart as he finished into the bottom corner but just four minutes later England were level again through Danny Welbeck’s flicked header.
Then enter Lambert and the rest is now history.
Anybody thinking this call-up was going to be a one-off is surely to be disappointed.
Saints fans have long known about Lambert’s abilities.
They have long said he can take his goalscoring up another level, having already done that twice in just four seasons at St Mary’s.
They have been vindicated.
Lambert is an international footballer to stay. The fairytale has further to run yet.
More on Rickie Lambert's England debut
- Updated: Picture Gallery of Lambert's England debut
- Lambert fulfils 'life long dream'
- Hodgson hails Lambert debut
- Lambert scores on England debut
- Rickie's England debut - as it happened
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