Rickie Lambert - Always A Saint
On the 2nd October 2017 Rickie Lambert announced his retirement. In truth it was something that most fans had been expecting, after he had been released by his last club Cardiff, where he had become increasingly marginalised. Age had finally caught up with him.
His was to be a fairy tale of success, where he spent the first ten years of his career, plying his trade in the lower leagues, before he joined Southampton and their journey up through the leagues to the heights of the Premier League.
Rickie arrived at Southampton from Bristol Rovers on the 10th August 2009 in a deal said to be worth in excess of £1 Million, which was a lot of money for a Division One club to pay for a single player. Lambert wasted no time in scoring his first goal for Saints the following day, in the 29th minute of a League Cup game against Northampton Town.
He scored his first league goal at St.Mary’s in the 2-0 win against Yeovil on the 19th September 2009 and from pretty much then on, was a firm crowd favourite. He went on to score 36 goals in 58 appearances for Southampton during that first season, but it wasn’t all plain sailing. When he arrived it quickly became clear that (whisper it!) he was not completely fit. He was later to admit that he had to adjust to the greater expectations of Southampton and to be more professional in his preparation. To his credit he took on board what the coaches told him and in very short order he lost weight and became a much better player as a result.
This was also the season of the triumphant Johnstone’s Paint Trophy campaign and one of the highlights of the Final at Wembley on the 28th March 2010, was the penalty Rickie scored in the 15th minute against Carlisle. Saints went on to win the game 4-1.
Penalties were to become something of a speciality for Rickie. Across the five seasons he spent at Southampton, starting in League One and ending with two seasons in the Premier League, he scored 34 penalties out of 34 attempts. Never missing a penalty was something that not even Matt Le Tissier could claim. After all, Matt famously missed a single penalty.
Lambert’s second season of 2010-2011 was the year Saints gained promotion to the Championship, finishing runners-up to Brighton. In February of 2011 Rickie reached a personal milestone, scoring his 50th goal for the club in a 1-0 League win over Carlisle. He managed 21 goals in 52 appearances that season.
The following season of 2011-12 was another promotion season, once again Saints finishing runners-up, this time to Reading. The difference was that this promotion was from the Championship to the Holy Grail of the Premier League. Once again Rickie had another stellar season, scoring 31 goals in 48 appearances, including hat tricks at home against Nottingham Forest and Brighton, with two further hat tricks away at Watford and Millwall.
So, here he was, having made his professional debut on the 7th August 1999 for Blackpool at the age of 17 (I am not going to mention anything about beetroots!), finally entering the Premier League. On the 19th August 2012 Rickie was in Saints starting line up, away at Manchester City. Although he ended up on the losing side that day, he scored his very first Premier League goal in the 60th minute. It wasn’t until towards the end of September that Saints got their first win in the top flight, by beating Aston Villa, with a brace from Rickie Lambert.
The first season in the Premier League was challenging, but Saints managed to finish in 14th place and Rickie scored a respectable 15 goals in 38 appearances. Highlights were his two goals, one in each of the successive home wins over Liverpool and Chelsea during March 2013.
The following 2013-14 season Saints managed to finish in 8th place in the league, but for once Rickie was not the clubs top scorer, that honour fell to Jay Rodriguez. Rickie did however score 14 goals in 39 appearances, with his final goal for Southampton coming in the final game of the season, which was a 1-1 draw with Manchester United.
In June 2014 Rickie signed with Liverpool for a reputed £4 million plus add ons. He had been released by the club as a teenager and had always harboured an ambition to play for them.
So, Rickie Lambert’s career at Southampton had come to an end and in truth Saints fans did not really begrudge him his move to his boyhood club, after the service he had given Saints in their rise from the depths of Division One, to the heights of the Premier League, during which he scored 117 goals. He will always be remembered for that - and that statistic of having scored all of his 34 penalty attempts.
Rickie Lambert - Always a Saint
channonite - 8th October 2017