Rickie Lambert has completed a fairytale story, following his call-up to the England squad.
Lambert, 31, received his first call-up to the England squad this Thursday afternoon, as Roy Hodgson named him in the squad to face Scotland at Wembley Stadium next Wednesday.
Hodgson selected Southampton forward Lambert alongside Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck of Manchester United and Jermain Defoe of Tottenham Hotspur.
Lambert had an imperious debut season in the Premier League, scoring 15 goals, more than any other English striker in the top flight last season. In addition to this, he also created more goalscoring opportunity than any other English forward last season in the Premier League, with 80 created chances.
Lambert's journey started as a trainne at Liverpool alongside Steven Gerrard, until he was released at the age of 16. He then signed for Blackpool, not making his debut until his second season with the north-west club. He made just three substitute appearances before being released by manager Steve McMahon.
Following his release, he stayed a free agent for four months, working as a beetroot factory worker, before third division side Macclesfield Town signed him up. Lambert, then a midfielder, went on to make himself a mainstay in the side, appearing on 49 occasions and notching 10 goals.
Macclesfield then sold Lambert for £300,000 for Lambert in 2002, as second division Stockport County moved to sign the impressive attacking midfielder. He appeared for the club on 110 appearances for Macclesfield, scoring 19 times, before a relegation-threatened season and poor performances saw him depart the club for Rochdale at the age of twenty-three. It was a step down a division, but would prove to be a major point in his career.
It was at Rochdale where Lambert really caught the headlines, after being converted into a centre-forward by manager Steve Parkin. Lambert partenered current Wigan striker Grant Holt during his time at the club, and the two were to prove a deadly combination. Lambert scored 6 league goals in 15 appearances in his first season with the club. In what was to be his first, and last full-season with Rochdale, Lambert scored 22 goals in 46 league appearances, attracting interest from clubs competing at a higher level.
At the start of the 2006/07 season, Lambert played three games for Rochdale before completing a move to fellow League Two side Bristol Rovers. In his first season with the club, Lambert scored just 8 goals in 36 league appearances.
Rovers manager Paul Trollope was undetered, however. He continued to persist with Lambert and gave him a full pre-season. Rovers had been promoted to League One, and in his first League One campaign with the club, Lambert netted 13 times.
Next season was to prove another improvement, as he averaged more than a goal every two games, scoring 29 in 45 appearances. During this spell, Lambert scored a free-kick against future club Southampton to dump the then-plummeting club out of the FA Cup.
Lambert was to start (and score) in just one League One fixture next season, as Southampton prepared a big-money move for the prolific frontman.
Alan Pardew, backed by the club's new owner Markus Liebherr, completed a £1m move for the forward in August 2009, before handing him the famous #7 shirt at St. Mary's Stadium. Lambert scored on his debut, a home Carling Cup First Round tie with Northampton Town.
Lambert was to prove a talisman for the south coast club's revival. In his first season with the Saints he scored 36 goals in 58 appearances, helping the club to lift the Johnstone's Paint Trophy with an emphatic 4-1 win over fellow League One side Carlisle United at Wembley Stadium. Lambert scored from the penalty spot, with Adam Lallana, Papa Waigo and Michail Antonio completing the rout.
Lambert also set about nailing down a place in Southampton folklore, as he scored against then Premier League rivals Portsmouth in a FA Cup tie in February 2010. Lambert took the adulation of the Southampton fans, being named as Fans' Player of the Season in his debut season. Lambert claimed a place in the PFA's Team of the Year before being named as Fans' PFA Player of the Year at an awards dinner in the summer of 2010.
In the summer, Southampton moved to seal Lambert's long-term future, as the striker penned a new three-year deal with the club, committing himself to Southampton until at least the summer of 2014.
Southampton were to replace Alan Pardew early in the 2010/11 season, with chairman Nicola Cortese sacking the current Newcastle United manager after a 4-1 victory against Lambert's former club, Bristol Rovers.
The club appointed Nigel Adkins as their new manager, and doubt reigned over Lambert's future after a slow start to the season. The Liverpudlian striker signed off for the season having scored 21 goals in 45 League One appearances, once again becoming Southampton's top goalscorer. Lambert was also named in the PFA Team of the Year, as well as taking home the award for PFA Player of the Year in League One.
Adkins led the club to promotion to the Championship in just his first season with the club, with Lambert spear-heading his side, accompanied by Lee Barnard, Alex Chamberlain and Adam Lallana. Lambert, now 29, was once again doubted as to whether he was able to step up to the Championship, a level he had never competed at before.
Lambert became the club's top scorer for the third season in a row, as well as claiming the title as the division's top scorer with 27 goals in 42 appearances, featuring four league hat-tricks in one season.
Once again, Southampton were promoted under the watch of Adkins, completing a miraculous turnaround from League One to the Premier League by way of back-to-back promotion. Again, Lambert was named in the PFA Team of the Year, as well as taking the award for PFA Player of the Year for the Championship. Once again, Southampton fans named Rickie Lambert as their choice for Player of the Season.
If there was any doubt, Lambert had now cemented himself as a Southampton legend, becoming the icon of the club's rise back to the Premier League after a seven year absence.
Lambert was benched for Southampton's visit to champions Manchester City on the opening day of the Premier League season, coming on as a second half substitute for Jay Rodriguez. Just two minutes after his introduction, Lambert struck an equaliser in front of the travelling Southampton fans in a goal he heralded as the best of his career.
Lambert continued to impress in the Premier League, scoring 15 goals and ending the season as the highest scoring English forward in the league.
Lambert has continued to uphold his 100% record from the penalty spot throughout his time at Southampton. During the season Lambert scored his 100th goal for the club in a 4-2 away loss at Newcastle United. Lambert was, once again, the club's top scorer for the fourth season in a row.
During his debut Premier League season, manager Nigel Adkins was replaced by former Espanyol boss Mauricio Pochettino, again raising questions over Lambert's future at the club. In March 2013, however, Pochettino handed Lambert a new three-year contract, seeing the striker through to the summer of 2016.
Mauricio Pochettino heralded Lambert as an "extraordinary footballer" before claiming that he still thought the forward could break into the England set-up.
“He has many qualities. He can shoot well and he’s skilful but what surprised me is his mentality," Pochettino said.
When asked of Lambert's potential England career, Pochettino answered: "It’s never too late and now he’s got the chance to show everyone his capabilities."
Lambert's meteoric rise continued this afternoon with the news of an England call-up, as he continued preparations as he prepares to lead the club into their first full-season under the leadership of Mauricio Pochettino.
Lambert's call-up came on the same day as the birth of his third child and first daughter, Bella Rose.
This call-up completes what could only be imagined in the comic book strips of children up and down the nation. Ultimately, Lambert's application and mental strength to continuing proving the doubters wrong at every level has prevailed.
Rickie Lambert's journey from beetroot factory worker to a Premier League footballer set to walk out onto the Wembley turf in the attire of his national team only serves to prove that dreams really can come true.
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