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Rickie still going from strength to strength
A little over four years have now passed since Rickie Lambert first pulled on a Saints shirt.
This Sunday, the striker will walk back into the home dressing room at St Mary’s and go through that same ritual for the 200th time.
Even he might struggle to believe quite how incredibly things have changed in the intervening period.
It was August 10, 2009, when Saints announced they had signed the forward, from Bristol Rovers.
Then, Lambert was a 27-year-old lower league journeyman, who had never played above the third tier.
Becoming the joint top English scorer in the Premier League and netting goals for his country was the stuff of dreams, or at least games consoles.
The £1m Saints paid for Lambert was a massive outlay for a club that was then in League One, but now it must surely rank as one of the finest moves they have ever made in the transfer market.
Lambert has certainly made a habit of richly rewarding those who have taken a chance on him. Even the England manager has been finding that out recently. But it is scarcely believable how far the forward has progressed since that first night, when he bagged a goal in a League Cup win against Northampton, at St Mary’s.
Four years, 199 appearances, and 104 goals into his career with the club, he is already well on his way to achieving legendary status at Saints.
His goals have proved crucial in two promotions, not to mention sustaining the club in their first season back in the top flight.
His 15 strikes last term could not be bettered by any English player in the division, with it all leading to a richly deserved call-up for his country.
It will have come as no surprise to those who have watched Lambert regularly at Saints that he has acquitted himself so well for England, and it will have come as no surprise to those who have worked with him that none of that success has gone to his head.
The incredible progression will, naturally, at some time stop, and retaining his place in England’s starting line-up, with the imminent return of Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge and the suspended Danny Welbeck, will likely prove impossible.
But Lambert has surely done enough to make himself a regular fixture in the England squad, as they look to seal a place at next year’s World Cup, in Brazil.
And what a fine place that would be for the Saints forward to cap this remarkable rise to prominence.
Considering what we know now, it is fascinating to look back on the words of Lambert on the day he signed for Saints.
“I’m just going to try and be as good as I can be, and hopefully that’s enough.”
It has been much more than that.
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