WITH the announcement of England’s World Cup squad less than two months away, it is possible that Rickie Lambert’s fairytale career will soon feature a glorious new chapter.
As he reflects on his first season as an England player, Lambert is only too aware that his performances in Saints’ last nine games will go a long way to determining whether he makes Roy Hodgson’s Brazil 2014 squad.
“It’s a chance I’m desperate to take, absolutely desperate,” said Lambert, who made his dream debut against Scotland at Wembley just seven months ago.
It is hard to believe that less than three years ago he was in the Saints side beaten 2-0 at home by former club Rocdale in League One. “The last couple of years have gone so fast it’s been hard to take in, It will probably be years from now I’ll look back and realise what has happened,” he said.
Lot more relaxed “But if [a World Cup call-up] happens I’ll try and enjoy it.” Lambert’s England career could not have started any better.
The winning header on debut against Scotland in August will live long in the memory and he followed that with England’s second goal on his full debut in the 4-0 win against Moldova three weeks later. He has not started any of England’s last five games, since the goalless draw against Ukraine in September, but enjoyed the build-up to the win against Denmark ten days ago.
“I was a lot more relaxed and took it all in, I was just overjoyed to get the call-up again a few months after the last one,” he said. “I thought it might not come but feel a lot more confident now.”
Lambert, fresh from a training session at nearby Marchwood, is discussing his World Cup chances at the launch of Titanfall in the spring sunshine at Hythe Marina.
He agrees that Andy Carroll is his main rival for a place in Hodgson’s 23-man squad.
“There’s a chance both of us might not go but he does like that type of striker so there’s a big possibility one of us will go – but I don’t think both of us will go,” he said. While there is more to the centre-forward’s art than goalscoring, two from 197 minutes in an England shirt compares favourably with Carroll’s two from 444 minutes. “I think I’ve done well when Roy Hodgson’s given me the chance and I would like to think that’s in his mind,” Lambert continues.
“At the beginning of the season I knew it was World Cup year and as an English player I had a chance. “Hopefully I can carry on trying to impress for Southampton and if I get a chance again I’ll try and impress for England.”
Lambert has certainly impressed during his two years in the Premier League, but says he has been flattered by the plaudits he has received this season.
“A lot of the critics have been nice to me, which I haven’t been used to during my career,” he smiles. “It’s nice, obviously you want to be liked, but I know that’s not going to make up Roy Hodgson’s mind.”
All will be revealed on May 13. Lambert agrees that debutant Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana, in his third England appearance, did their chances no harm during the win against Denmark.
“When Luke came on I couldn’t stop smiling because I’ve seen him come from the youth team,” he continues.
“It’s brilliant when that happens, to see him progress the way he has and then get his chance. “He was really nervous, as you would be at 18. I was trying to reassure him in the dressing room before the game but I knew I didn’t have to because he’s that good. “The experienced lads in the squad are really good as well, they were really good with me and they were especially good with Luke but I knew he’d be fine once he got on the pitch.
“Normally it takes a kid six months to adapt to professional football but he adapted straight away. I’ve only seen that once and that was Chambo (Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain). To see two in such a short space of time is frightening.”
Lallana was particularly impressive after coming off the bench against Denmark.
“Adam did very well last time and again he did exceptionally well, doing what he’s done all season; creating chances, looking comfortable on the ball. “He can create space from nothing and I’m made up he got an assist.
“I am biased, I would love him to have a starting place but obviously it’s going to be hard for him, he’s got to try and impress just as much as me. But he’s played a number of formations and there’s a position for Adz in all of them, definitely.” Rickie Lambert was speaking at the launch of Titanfall, out now on Xbox One and PC. Prepare for Titanfall at Titanfall.com