Rickie Lambert has had a fantastic season for Southampton in the Premier League this season, scoring 14 goals with five league assists to his name. These performances have lead many England fans to ask why the 31-year-old striker has not yet been called up by Roy Hodgson.
Lambert was signed by Alan Pardew for Southampton in 2009 and became the Saints' top scorer in his first season with 36 goals in all competitions. In his second season with the south coast outfit, he scored 21 goals making him the club's top scorer for the second season running.
He then continued this outstanding form into the 2010/11 season with 24 goals in all competitions to promote Southampton back to the Premier League. He is currently the league's top scoring English player ahead of the likes of Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard; all established names in the England squad. Surely with these stats, he should have been called up for England by now?
An important trait that gives Lambert an edge is his strength. This is useful both on the ball to get past defenders and in the air to win headers or bring the ball down with ease. He chests and headers the ball very well and is a strong force which creates many chances and gets him plenty of goals. His strength also makes up for his lack of pace - he's not necessarily slow, but with players like Daniel Sturridge, Darren Bent, Gabby Agbonlahor and Jermain Defoe to compete with, his strength is a huge bonus over these players.
Rickie Lambert is no doubt a set-piece specialist. He has scored every one of his 31 penalties at Southampton, never failing to find the corner of the net. England are of course known for going out of tournaments in penalties so this could prove vital for Roy Hodgson's Three Lions. He is also lethal as a free-kick taker; recently scoring a stunning 30-yard stunner against Chelsea's Petr Cech to earn the Saints a valuable three points at St. Mary's.
Mentality is key in football and Lambert is mentally one of the strongest players in the league. According to the Daily Mirror, Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino said: "He [Lambert] has many qualities. He can shoot well and he's skilful but what surprised me is his mentality." This mentality leads to composure, confidence and desire to improve. This is shown in his penalty statistics, his influence on the team and the fans, and his passion going into games. At international level, this psychological attitude is vital as the stage is greater and results in many ways count for more. Many England players have been known to crack under this pressure but Lambert has the mentality to take every game as it comes, regardless of the importance.
Through all of these positives, there are some cons which may be holding Roy Hodgson back. The first of these is his age. At 31, he may have the experience but not the agility and creativity of younger players. Even though his strength counters his lack of pace compared to other players, this is still a disadvantage for Lambert.
Another reason Hodgson may be avoiding Lambert is the fact that he has come up through the leagues rather than been a consistent top flight player. This means people often pounce on mistakes to justify why he has been playing lower down the football pyramid in his career. These mistakes are then highlighted more than his good actions on the pitch.
It appears though that despite these drawbacks, Lambert does have what it takes to be called up for England and it seems only a matter of time. Time is however against the Southampton striker as at the age of 31, it seems his career will start declining from here. It may be Hodgson's last chance to gain the talent that Rickie Lambert could bring to the England team.
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