World Cup winner Terry Paine believes Saints striker Rickie Lambert possesses a huge advantage over his rival Andy Carroll in the battle for a place in Brazil.
Lambert was yesterday named by Roy Hodgson in the latest England squad, for Wednesday’s home friendly against Denmark, while his counterpart at West Ham was left out.
The national team manager stressed the door was not closed on Carroll in terms of making the World Cup squad, but he now faces a significant challenge to force his way back in.
With one of the two imposing front men expected to be on the plane, Paine believes Lambert is very much in the box seat.
“I think it’s quite huge,” he said, of the advantage the Saints hitman possesses over Carroll.
“The only thing to consider is how Roy might have felt Carroll did previously when playing for England.
“But, the fact is, he’s been out nearly all season. He only came back at Christmas and has missed the last three games, so he’s had very little game time.
“He’s virtually got just 11 games left to make his case, and is that going to be enough time to change Roy Hodgson’s mind?”
Saints’ honorary president added: “I like players who can come in and do a job, and Lambert does that.
“As I’ve said before, to score the winning goal against Scotland is something that hangs about in a manager’s memory for a long, long time.
“The front two will obviously be (Daniel) Sturridge and (Wayne) Rooney, but if you need to change it around then he’s a good option.”
Lambert was one of four Saints players named by Hodgson, and Paine was thrilled to see Luke Shaw receive a first ever call-up.
Paine, a member of England’s 1966 World Cup winning squad, believes the 18-year-old would be a better option to take to Brazil this summer than stalwart Ashley Cole, who is out of favour at Chelsea.
“If it was me, there wouldn’t be any doubt,” he said. “I would take Shaw, because you’re not just thinking about this World Cup and, certainly looking at the future, he’s got to be the next left back.”
Paine reiterated his opinion that Saints captain Adam Lallana, who has been called up again, is a certainty for Brazil.
“I think he’s impressed everybody,” he said. “I don’t think Roy would even consider leaving him out.
“He’s just shown too much, and he’s adaptable – you can play him down the left, down the right, off the front men; he gives you a lot of options.”
Jay Rodriguez rounds off the Saints contingent, making it back into the squad as a result of some fine performances at club level, in the aftermath of his quiet debut last November.
“His form’s been excellent recently,” said Paine. “I think Roy will have been impressed with him at club level, but I think he’s got the most to do out of the four.”
While attention will turn firmly to England after this weekend, the focus tomorrow will be very much on Liverpool’s visit to St Mary’s.
It is one that Paine is relishing.
“I’m looking forward to it tremendously,” he said. “I have always loved the encounters with Liverpool. “I can’t remember a dull game between the teams.
“They’re going great guns and have got what are probably the two most in-form strikers in the Premier League at the moment.
“They’re top scorers in the league, but can they stop Southampton scoring? I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up 3-3.
“If (Dejan) Lovren’s back, and fit and ready to go, then that would be a massive plus.
“It would be a tremendous boost if the team could get three points. That would put them back on the winning trail and, looking at the fixtures from there, you’ve got to say they’ve got a chance in most of them.
“My big wish is we don’t fall away now. Everyone is talking about how well Southampton have done and the style of football they play, so to lose that impetus now would be such a shame.”