Rickie Lambert has spent the majority of his career in the third and fourth tier of English football. Paul Hayward, writing in the Daily Telegraph, argues that upon being ‘released by Blackpool twelve years ago’, Lambert has represented ‘both the proletariat of the three tiers below the Premier League and the middle classes of the top division.’
Indeed, the story of the Southampton forward’s career appears almost to fairytale-like: his period with Southampton has seen him fire them through two divisions into the Premier League.
2009-10 was his most prolific season; he scored 30 league goals in 45 appearances. When the Saints were promoted to the Championship, Lambert proved more than capable of coping with the increase in quality; he scored 27 goals in 42 games and propelled them to the Premier League, becoming the season’s top scorer in the process.
The jump to the Premier League has so far proven an equally surmountable challenge - Lambert was joint highest scoring Englishman in last season’s top division with 15 goals.
He seems comfortable at international level; although he is yet to be tested against teams with good defence.
Lambert’s rise poses an interesting question; just how many good players are there in the Championship and below that are yet to be called upon?
The Championship is an incredibly competitive league, it has greater quality than a large number of top divisions across the world. The top scorers in eight of the last nine seasons have been English.
Glenn Murray, a player who has also played the most part of his career in leagues below the championship, scored 30 goals last season. Undoubtedly, there are players who would not be able to raise their game if they made it to the Premier League.
However, many of the teams that England play against consist of players from leagues well below the quality of English football.
It could be argued that if players from the Championship were selected for England, they would only be able to cope with teams of Moldova’s ilk. However, consider the fact that England only managed to put five goals past San Marino, and that was with Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and other regulars on the field. By contrast, Ukraine notched up a far more impressive 9-0 against the same team on Friday evening.
With the position of English talent in the Premier League, the England team will surely only benefit from being opened up to the increased competition and quality that exists in the Championship and perhaps below.
There is no point in waiting for Premier League clubs to pluck talent from ‘inferior’ leagues,their whole strategy is built around buying the best talent from abroad; leaving English talent to languish unnoticed.
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