Sunday 23 November 2014

Rickie Lambert 'has desire to succeed'

Published 05/06/2014 | 14:41

Rickie Lambert of England scores their second goal during the International friendly match between England and Ecuador at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Rickie Lambert of England scores their second goal during the International friendly match between England and Ecuador at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

New Liverpool striker Rickie Lambert will seize his chance to play at the highest level as a determination to succeed has been the driving force throughout his career, according to a former manager.

Gil Prescott helped rescue the England international's career when he was at risk of being lost to football, signing the then 19-year-old for Macclesfield after four months in the wilderness having been released by the Reds' academy and then subsequently Blackpool.

And while life in the bottom tier of English league football was not easy for Lambert, who scored a thumping effort in England's 2-2 friendly draw against Ecuador on Wednesday, his former boss said even then he showed the sort of quality which has taken him to the World Cup.

"He had gone out of the game a little bit and he was working for a living and he wasn't quite at the fitness levels you expect," Prescott, now a scout for Blackburn.

"But he is such a good lad I said to him, 'If you trust me we'll give you just expenses and when you get right and are physically as it should be we'll give you a little contract' - which is what we did.

"He just had that desire, playing was more important to Rickie at the time, he was desperate to play.

"He always had this awareness and quality about him. He was a midfielder as well as a centre-forward, he used to play as a number 10, but he sees things so quickly.

"When we took him I didn't play him initially but I said the higher he goes the better he will become and people looked at me as if I was an idiot.

"In the lower leagues you get hassled, they tread on you, but a bit higher up they give you time and if you give Rickie time he will hurt you.

"I just knew once he got into a higher level he would show people he is really capable. If he pulls the trigger that right foot is like a siege gun.

"He is different from the two strikers Liverpool have got. I watched Suarez a few times in Holland and he scored goals every week and Sturridge is one who can do nothing for 20 minutes and then suddenly spring into action.

"Rickie can play as a 10, he can play up top or play off the striker and even deeper if you want.

"I think Liverpool is a great club for him because I think Brendan Rodgers will allow him the freedom to play the way he does - which is satisfying because there are so many who try to stifle good players today."

Lambert's career path is now the stuff of footballing legend as, being released from Liverpool's academy as a 15-year-old and failing to make his mark at Blackpool, he took a job in a beetroot bottling factory to bring some money in while he tried to get a foothold back in the game.

Macclesfield offered him that chance but even then it was not all plain sailing as a move to nearby Stockport proved difficult and he spent time at Rochdale and Bristol Rovers before enjoying his greatest success at Southampton.

Prescott believes those life experiences have helped shape Lambert into the player he is now.

"I am a big believer, maybe against the flow, in thinking not being in an academy sometimes helps you," he added.

"If you are told three times by the time you are 17 you are not good enough you start to believe it and sometimes the ones who come in fresh from non-league haven't been dented and still have that burning desire.

"I just admire Rickie's fortitude. He has gone through some bad times, places you wouldn't necessarily want to be, but he has always kept the faith and he's done brilliantly and I'm so, so proud of him.

"It's a great story. Isn't it nice it has happened to someone who has seen the bad times: been kicked out of football, gone and worked in a beetroot factory. I am dead pleased for him."

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