Rickie Lambert's astonishing rise

Rickie Lambert

Rickie Lambert

First published in Sport Basingstoke Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Sports Editor

HE was a third division player for Stockport County when the 2002 World Cup was held in South Korea and Japan.

He was a fourth division striker with an even more unfashionable club, Rochdale, when England competed in the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

And he was still a third division footballer when the last World Cup was held in South Africa, albeit one that had scored 37 goals in all competitions in 2009/10 for Saints.

Now Rickie Lambert has completed his astonishing and heart-warming rags to riches story by being named in England’s squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

He is the second oldest striker England will have taken to one of their 14 World Cup finals.

Emile Heskey was the same age, but a few months older, when he went to the last finals in South Africa.

And back in 2006, Teddy Sheringham was 36 when he went to Germany.

Lambert is surely unique, though, given his background.

No player ever selected for an England World Cup finals squad has ever spent the vast majority of his career operating in the lower divisions.

From making his debut in August 1999 for Blackpool through to helping Saints win promotion in 2011, Lambert played in either the third or fourth tiers of English football.

He was 29 when he made his Championship debut in August 2011, and 31 when Roy Hodgson handed him his England international debut against Scotland almost two years later to the day.

The only real challenge to Lambert’s place on the plane to Brazil was from West Ham’s Andy Carroll.

But whichever way you looked at the stats, Lambert held the upper hand.

In his two seasons in the Premier League, the Saints ace has scored 28 goals, six of them penalties.

During the same period, Carroll – plagued by injuries – has netted just nine times.

Lambert’s strike rate is a goal every 2.7 games, while Carroll’s is a goal every 4.33 matches.

Carroll only manaed two goals in 15 Premier League games in 2013/14, having had to wait until January 11 for his first appearance.

Lambert’s game is not all about goals, though.

He provided 10 assists for his team-mates in 2013/14, the joint third highest total in the top flight.

Only Liverpool pair Steven Gerrard (13) and Luis Suarez (12) provided more.

Perhaps that stat, more than his goals and his incredible penalty taking record, is what prompted Hodgson to take him to Brazil.

Lambert is not your traditional lower division battering ram centre forward, he has the touch and awareness to go alongside his goals – 211 during his league career to date.

Lambert was by no means one of the oldest players to make his senior England debut.

Three years ago ex-Saints striker Kevin Davies was handed his first cap by Fabio Capello aged 33.

The Bolton forward was the oldest England debutant since Leslie Compton played in 1950 at the ripe age of 38!

Davies, though, had played for England under-18s and under-21s in his youth.

Lambert had never been picked for a single England squad at any age range prior to his debut, where he was introduced as a second half sub and scored the winner with his first touch.

Leon Osman, ex-Saint Kevin Richardson, Chris Powell and Steve Bould had also been 31 when they had made their senior England debuts in modern times.

None of those players, though, had ever worked in a beetroot factory, putting the lids on jam jars.

Lambert has.

None of those players had ever spent vast chunks of their careers turning out in lower league footballing wastelands in front of only a couple of thousand die-hard supporters.

Lambert has.

A cold and wet November or December night at a near-deserted lower league ground in the north of the country is not usually the place where England World Cup stars are developed.

England stars can be found there, but mainly early on in their careers.

Joe Hart spent a few years playing as a promising teenager for Shrewsbury prior to joining Manchester City.

Hart was 19 when he arrived in the Premier League in 2006.

In contrast, Lambert was 30 when he made his top tier debut six years later.

In the last 64 years, across 14 different World Cups, can England have ever selected anyone else who made their top flight debut as a thirtysomething veteran of countless campaigns in the lower divisions?

No, they cannot.

There is only one Rickie Lambert.

Comments (9)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

7:55am Tue 13 May 14

Public Health says...

There is only one Ricky Lambert. What really marks him out though is that he is such a great human being, thinking about others before himself, keeping football in perspective, and enjoying and appreciating what he has got. Top man and we are all so proud of him and our great club.
There is only one Ricky Lambert. What really marks him out though is that he is such a great human being, thinking about others before himself, keeping football in perspective, and enjoying and appreciating what he has got. Top man and we are all so proud of him and our great club. Public Health
  • Score: 16

7:56am Tue 13 May 14

aldermoorboy says...

Roy of the Rovers, a great man he deserves it all.
Roy of the Rovers, a great man he deserves it all. aldermoorboy
  • Score: 8

8:39am Tue 13 May 14

el caballo santos101 says...

All he needs to do now is score the winning goal in the world cup final and then sit back and wonder who's going to play him in his life story, I'm thinking Jason Statham
All he needs to do now is score the winning goal in the world cup final and then sit back and wonder who's going to play him in his life story, I'm thinking Jason Statham el caballo santos101
  • Score: 13

8:57am Tue 13 May 14

jls217 says...

Great article. A fairy tale story.
The man has consistently scored his way to the top. No night clubs wrecked, people chinned, drugs, booze, claims of rape, dodgy betting deals. A model professional.
Thank goodness he came to us - he'd be a nightmare to play against.
He seems to know instinctively when he has a CB he can bully into a mistake and when he's up against one where he has to be little more cunning as he won't be knocking the bloke out of the way any time soon. Very adaptable footballing brain. Seem to know exactly when to take the shot himself or to lay it off for someone else. Ice cold when put on the spot Thanks Sir Richard Lambert. Have a great summer to be able to tell your grandkids about..
Great article. A fairy tale story. The man has consistently scored his way to the top. No night clubs wrecked, people chinned, drugs, booze, claims of rape, dodgy betting deals. A model professional. Thank goodness he came to us - he'd be a nightmare to play against. He seems to know instinctively when he has a CB he can bully into a mistake and when he's up against one where he has to be little more cunning as he won't be knocking the bloke out of the way any time soon. Very adaptable footballing brain. Seem to know exactly when to take the shot himself or to lay it off for someone else. Ice cold when put on the spot Thanks Sir Richard Lambert. Have a great summer to be able to tell your grandkids about.. jls217
  • Score: 12

10:01am Tue 13 May 14

Positively4thStreet says...

The one million pound gift, that keeps on giving.
Jewel in the crown.
The one million pound gift, that keeps on giving. Jewel in the crown. Positively4thStreet
  • Score: 10

10:31am Tue 13 May 14

NC Fan4Life says...

Brilliant Ricky just needs you to score a goal and the fairy tell is complete.
You a model professional and and inspiration to all footballers.
Good Luck and try to convince Adam to stay.
Brilliant Ricky just needs you to score a goal and the fairy tell is complete. You a model professional and and inspiration to all footballers. Good Luck and try to convince Adam to stay. NC Fan4Life
  • Score: 5

11:08am Tue 13 May 14

John Smith34 says...

Pleased for all three getting in the final squad but for Lambert in particular. His journey from the lower leagues to achieving one of the greatest aims for any footballer, to represent their country at a World Cup surpasses any Roy of the Rovers stuff! He has been picked on merit and I have no doubt if at any stage in Brazil next month he has to take a penalty there will be only one place that it's going. Congratulations Rickie and good luck.
Pleased for all three getting in the final squad but for Lambert in particular. His journey from the lower leagues to achieving one of the greatest aims for any footballer, to represent their country at a World Cup surpasses any Roy of the Rovers stuff! He has been picked on merit and I have no doubt if at any stage in Brazil next month he has to take a penalty there will be only one place that it's going. Congratulations Rickie and good luck. John Smith34
  • Score: 7

9:08pm Tue 13 May 14

southamptonadi says...

They doubted his ability when he signed for us in league one. And he terrorised everyone.

They said he was not good enough for the championship but he got us straight up to the premiership.

They all said it was a step to far but no in the first season he played into England recognition and in the second season played into the England team.

They now say he's not skilful enough but guess what rickie, you will prove them all wrong again and you will come home not only as our saints hero but a national hero too.

As a saints fan I'm so proud and will kick and head every ball with you in rio.
They doubted his ability when he signed for us in league one. And he terrorised everyone. They said he was not good enough for the championship but he got us straight up to the premiership. They all said it was a step to far but no in the first season he played into England recognition and in the second season played into the England team. They now say he's not skilful enough but guess what rickie, you will prove them all wrong again and you will come home not only as our saints hero but a national hero too. As a saints fan I'm so proud and will kick and head every ball with you in rio. southamptonadi
  • Score: 1

11:36pm Tue 13 May 14

fritzer says...

Bravo Zulu Sir Ricky, what more can I say.
Bravo Zulu Sir Ricky, what more can I say. fritzer
  • Score: 0

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree