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Football is evolving and so are its players. There may not be too many differences that meet the eye but seldom does modern football produce players like Rickie Lambert. The striker had to endure a lot of hardship before achieving his dream of playing the beautiful game in the Premier League, but he made it. And he made it big.
Desite playing for Liverpool and West Bromwhich Albion, Lambert will always be a Southampton legend. The fans continue to love him and regard him as one of their best – which was quite evident as several Saints fans posted their appreciation for the player, soon after he announced his retirement.
Back when people were not used to seeing astronomic figures in the transfer window, Rickie Lambert arrived at Southampton for a modest amount of over just £1m. That was also the time that Alan Pardew was just appointed as Saints’ head coach. The money paid for Lambert may not be a big deal now but back then, it was expensive enough to show how determined they were, to do better.
Lambert wasted no time in living up to his billing as he went on to score 36 goals in 58 appearances in that fateful 2009/10 season. His blistering form helped Southampton pick up the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at Wembley. In fact, Lambert scored a goal in their 4-1 win in the final as well.
His brilliance in the first season was more than enough to propel him as a new favourite among the Saints faithful. Often lovingly touted as Southampton’s goal machine, Lambert proved to be all the more pivotal in his second season with the club. Although he scored 21 league goals in 45 appearances, he was a threatening attacking presence on the field, which paved way for the club to earn a promotion to the Championship.
While many doubted his calibre in coping with teams in the second-tier, Lambert showed everybody how it’s done. He went on to score 27 goals in 42 league appearances, as the club, much to everyone’s surprise, sealed consecutive promotions to the coveted Premier League.
Now, a bigger test awaited the player as well as the club. The Premier League was not going to be a walk in the park and the Saints certainly did not see it that way. If anything, their performances were clinical enough to trouble even the best of teams. Lambert excelled for the team as he bagged double-figure goals in both his top-flight seasons at Southampton, which deservedly earned him a call-up to the England squad.
When one thinks of the most iconic performances of Lambert’s in a Southampton jersey, his stunning equaliser against Manchester City in the first game of the 2012/13 Premier League season comes to the mind. While City were ecstatic after having won the league in style, Southampton had just been promoted from the Championship.
The match started and Lambert was on the bench, much to the ire of the fans. However, the player eventually went on the field to replace Jay Rodriguez. Within minutes of strolling on to the pitch, Lambert neatly tucked away a half-chance into the net. The home fans were shocked but the away fans exploded in sheer joy.
Unfortunately for the club, the goal could not guarantee them a victory since City went on to win 3-2. Regardless, Lambert’s goal continues to be as iconic as ever, especially since it was against an English powerhouse like Manchester City.
Looking back at his performances, it is quite evident that Lambert was never the quickest of players. But he was strong and was quite adept at making complex passes. His finishing skills were flawless, and he was a team player in the truest essence of the term.
Upon ending his career with Southampton, Lambert notched up a total of 117 goals in 235 games across all competitions. In fact, the underrated striker retired with more league goals than any other player over the last couple of years. His tally boasts of a whopping 218 goals in various levels of the English league.
Besides scoring fantastic goals, Lambert was also known for his consistency at the St. Mary’s stadium. The fans knew they could rely on him even in the stickiest of situations. Rickie Lambert may have retired from club football but his legacy will live on forever in the hearts of many Southampton fans.