Lambert Repays Hodgson's Faith And May Get More Chances

by
Reuters
Rickie Lambert needed barely a minute on Wednesday to justify the "England international" entry on his colourful soccer CV and mark himself down as a potential member of England's World Cup squad should they qualify for Brazil.

England's Lambert gestures following the final whistle during their international friendly soccer match against Scotland in London

Rickie Lambert needed barely a minute on Wednesday to justify the "England international" entry on his colourful soccer CV and mark himself down as a potential member of England's World Cup squad should they qualify for Brazil.

The 31-year-old journeyman, whose goals have helped re-establish Southampton back among England's elite, had just come off the bench to earn his first cap when he met Leighton Baines's 70th-minute corner to seal a 3-2 victory over Scotland.

England are hardly overflowing with predatory strikers and Lambert's spectacular rise from the backwaters of the game has now given manager Roy Hodgson another option, albeit an unlikely one, as he prepares for the vital months ahead.

Hodgson was clearly delighted that his faith in Lambert, the joint highest English scorer in the Premier League last season with 15 goals, had been justified.

"He's been a breath of fresh air," Hodgson, whose team twice came from behind to beat their old rivals in an absorbing friendly, told reporters.

"He has been so enthusiastic, so happy to be part of the squad. It's wonderful story and now he's crowned it with the winning goal and he actually could have got the match ball.

"He had a shot against the post and a shot that (Scotland keeper) Allan McGregor palmed away. But I think he's pretty happy with one goal and the fact that it was a winner.

"Maybe he's saved a couple for later on."

While Wayne Rooney and the impressive Danny Welbeck are Hodgson preferred strikers, and the likes of Jermain Defoe and Daniel Sturridge will also be in the frame, Hodgson said Lambert, who has plied his trade at clubs like Rochdale and Macclesfield, would be given more opportunities.

"There may be more competition next time and we'll see what happens in the next three weeks but Rickie won't be struck off my list very lightly, put it that way," Hodgson said.

"Now he needs to go out and play well with Southampton and continue what he did last year."

Lambert said it had been a moment he had dreamed of.

"I tried to play it cool as if it didn't bother me but in reality I wanted to scream," he said of his call-up.

"It was brilliant. And I have to say a big thank-you to the lads who made me so welcome."

CONFIDENCE BOOST

His goal ensured England enjoyed a confidence boost ahead of World Cup qualifiers against Moldova, Ukraine, Montenegro and Poland, although Hodgson said there were still areas that his side needed to improve.

"The fact that without always playing our best, certainly defensively there are holes in our game that we would like to see disappear, it was a positive performance we worked hard and took plenty of risks with the ball and created many more opportunities than we have in past games.

"And perhaps the most positive thing is that we've had to come from behind because that might happen to us," he added.

"When you have to chase a game and take the responsibility, trying things against opponents who just have to stop you."

All eyes were on Rooney, who was playing his first match of the pre-season after his apparent wish to leave Manchester United for Chelsea.

England's most experienced international striker looked fairly sharp before being substituted in the second half and Hodgson was pleased with his contribution.

"He was good. We all knew before the game, it's been well-documented that this was his first competitive game and in normal circumstances you wouldn't expect a player in mid-August to be playing his first game against Scotland in front of 80,000 at Wembley," Hodgson said.

"But he wanted to play and I wanted to play him and I think he got 60 valuable minutes.

"He was looking fit and chasing around and working hard and he'll be raring to go when he re-joins his club."

Whether that is Manchester United or Chelsea remains to be seen.