The month is November and the year is 2000, the millennium has just turned as has 18-year-old Rickie Lambert’s life.
Seemingly woken up from his dream of being a professional footballer, he had been released from the Liverpool academy at the age of 15 followed by not having his contract renewed by Blackpool after two years around their reserve squad.
An 18-year-old Lambert is earning £20 a day working in a beetroot factory just to scrape by, it seemed as if his professional career was over before it even began. Four months on, Macclesfield Town gave him a shot.
He would work in the factory all day, catch an hour and 15 minute train just to get to training each night. He made a total of nine appearances at the end of that season then established himself as a regular for the club in the following season.
Lambert’s dream had been revived and he’d scored 10 goals in 40 appearances in the 2001-02 season before being bought by Stockport County for £300,000. He stuck around Stockport for three years and 98 appearances but just 18 goals. Due to poor club performance and the possibility of relegation, he took a new route on his journey.
This next stop was in League Two for Rochdale. Lambert was 23 and was partnered with Grant Holt where the two scored goals for fun but failed in the quest for promotion. His goal ratio improved to nearly one every other game, netting 28 times in 64 appearances.
Bristol Rovers then acquired the technical big man’s services for a meager £200,000 on deadline day in 2006. Lambert helped promote them into League One where two years later he was joint top scored in the league and member of the Team of the Season. He got on the pitch 128 times with 51 goals.
In 2009 Lambert joined Southampton for £1million, where his career exploded. There he listened to Alan Pardew who told him basically to get in shape, get his body right. In his first season for the Saints, he scored 36 goals in all competitions and won PFA Fans' Player of the Year for League One. But because of a 10 point financial penalty, Southampton finished outside of the playoff places and couldn't fight for promotion.
That all changed in 2010 when they finished second in the league, earning automatic promotion to the Championship. Once there, Lambert kept firing and seared the south coast club into the Premier League.
A kid who was cut from the Liverpool academy, wasn’t good enough for Blackpool and someone who once made his living by screwing tops onto jars in a factory was now in the top-flight. In his first season in England’s top division, he scored 15 goals. Not too bad for someone who bounced around the lower leagues.
At 31-years-old in 2013-14, Lambert was still an integral part of the Saints. He scored 13 goals and was a constant in the side.
During the beginning of that season, Lambert knew England had a friendly against Scotland. He didn't know when the squad was going to be announced, he was too focused on the delivery of his third child. Then he got a phone call that same day.
The call informed him that he’d be in that England side, eligible to make his international debut. And would you believe it? He scored on his first touch in an England kit, a header to secure a 3-2 victory.
The following summer Lambert was one of the 23 players that Roy Hodgson brought to Brazil for the World Cup. His story kept getting better and it didn't stop there.
Remember that club he wasn't good enough for? Well they were paying Southampton £4million for the right to give him a kit. When he was 16 he would have killed to put that shirt on again, now the lifelong Liverpool fan was handed the iconic No.9 shirt.
Rickie Lambert is the prime example of someone who never gave up on his dream. He never entertained the idea of life beyond football. An honest man had his hard work pay off dividends, a great story that’s not finished being written.
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