Football

England: Is it time to start taking Rickie Lambert seriously?

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When Rickie Lambert was first granted a call-up to the England squad last month, his selection was largely put down to three things.

Firstly, the injuries to and resulting absence of Daniel Sturridge and Andy Carroll, secondly the fact that a friendly against Scotland represented a relatively casual and risk-free opportunity for Roy Hodgson to experiment with new players and finally, the fact that after a career toiling in the lower leagues had culminated in a very respectable first season in the Premiership for Southampton, Lambert just seemed to be one of those players who deserved a call-up.

Not because he was considered a realistic contender for a permanent place in the England squad or that he'd be part of a changing and developing team, but if nothing else, just as a pat on the back for all his hard work throughout his career.

If anything, Lambert's selection prior to the game against Scotland brought back memories of Kevin Davies three years ago, who, at the age of 33, was given one (somewhat absurd) token appearance in an England shirt against Montenegro in a meaningless qualifier for Euro 2012. His jog onto the pitch was granted a standing ovation by the watching fans for seemingly nothing more than a career of honest effort as an old-school target-man. 

Likewise, news of Lambert's selection had a lot of England supporters smiling in approval, bringing images of 'When Saturday Comes' and 'Roy of the Rovers' to mind. Even scoring a superb winner against Scotland seemed to be viewed as little more than a fitting finale to what was generally assumed would be a one-game fairytale. A chance for Lambert to add 'England International' to his resume when he retires within the next four or five years and a pleasant memory to look back on for one of football's 'triers'.

Sure enough, the reaction from fans, pundits and media alike took a positive, but subtly patronising tone. The fact that Lambert had a short stint working shifts at a beetroot factory early on in his career was repeated ad nauseum by a nation seemingly more keen to hail him as a working-class hero and down-to-earth family man than ever entertaining the notion that he might present a genuine striking option for an England team in a World Cup year.  

It was generally assumed he'd go much the same way as the aforementioned Davies, David Nugent and Francis Jeffers; one cap, one goal, now time to disappear off into the sunset. Thank you, goodbye, best of luck. Indeed, Matthew Norman of The Telegraph openly scoffed at the idea of his further selection, offering a derisory and sarcastic article encouraging him to retire then and there.

Undoubtedly harsh, but a pertinently honest assessment among the swathe of exaggerated, condescending and seemingly insincere praise the came Lambert's way. 

However, with a fledgling goal-a-game ratio coupled with two excellent assists and superb link-up play with Danny Welbeck in his first competitive match against Moldova, perceptions of the Southampton striker seem to be shifting. 

All of a sudden, media and fans alike are beginning to deliver honest assessments of Lambert's abilities, and whether or not he really could offer something for an England side for whom expectations for next summer's World Cup seem more muted and realistic than they have been in the past.

Injuries and suspensions have once again played their part, but nevertheless, by hook or by crook, Lambert once again has the chance to represent his country for the third time in just over a month. The difference this time being that it will be in a competitive, challenging and vitally important match away to Ukraine.

Should Lambert pass his third and most difficult test for England on Tuesday night in Kiev, surely he should be given very serious consideration for a spot in next year's World Cup squad.

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Topics:
England Football
Southampton
Football
Rickie Lambert

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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