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Lambert set to join exclusive Saints club
Rickie Lambert is tonight expected to join an exclusive club as his footballing dream comes true.
The 31-year-old is hoping to become the 1,195th senior England international when they take on Scotland in an historic game at Wembley.
Lambert will also become just the 22nd Saints player to make his England debut while playing for the club.
The last player to achieve the feat was Peter Crouch eight years ago.
Lambert is expected to play a part in the game, having won his first call-up after a career spent largely in the bottom two divisions of the Football League.
Roy Hodgson has dropped several hints that Lambert will feature in a friendly international in which only six substitutions are allowed.
It is a massive occasion for the Saints striker who has risen through the divisions with the club, scoring over 100 goals in just four seasons since Alan Pardew convinced Nicola Cortese to part with £1m to recruit Lambert from Bristol Rovers.
The game will also be a big occasion for former Saints boss Gordon Strachan.
The man who led the club to the FA Cup final in 2003 and eighth place in the Premier League is completing final preparations for the first meeting between the two countries in 14 years and he believes the rivalry is as keen as ever.
“It is a friendly, a celebration of football but the game is going to be competitive," said the former Scotland midfielder.
“When I was a player and manager, friendly games didn't really turn me on.
“I think players could sniff that from you but it’s a bit different this one. There is pressure there.
“It’s a fixture we all want to see more often; players, fans, media, all want to see it.
“Even people who are not even football fans are interested in the Scotland versus England games.
“I know we play them in other sports but this is the sport that everybody can attach themselves to and enjoy.”
To that end, Strachan has refused to make any promises to club managers who want him to go easy on their players.
The season in Scotland is up and running with Celtic trio Scott Brown, Charlie Mulgrew and James Forrest looking forward to the first-leg of a crucial Champions League play-off tie against Shakhtar Karagandy next Tuesday in Kazakhstan following a trip to Aberdeen in the Scottish Premiership on Saturday, while English-based players have just started their domestic season or are about to embark on a new campaign.
There will be a maximum of six substitutions allowed but the former Southampton, Coventry and Middlesbrough manager is not planning on a series of pre-planned interval changes, instead opting to use his bench only with a view to getting a positive result.
"A couple of managers have asked me about that but I have to see how the game is going," he said.
"It would be wrong of me to promise them that their player is going to play 45 minutes and then they end up playing 70 because of the circumstances of the game.
"If it is two centre halves and I say one has to come off after 45 minutes but the other one got injured in the first-half and I had to keep him (first one) on.
"So I wouldn't promise any manager, all I did say was that I will look after your players as much as I can.
"I have been there myself. I remember asking an international manager to look after some of my players because we had Champions League games and he took two of them off with one minute to go - oh thanks.
"So I think the managers will appreciate in this game that both sides are going to try to win the game."
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