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Lambert uses confidence trick to alter his fortunes

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Rickie Lambert looking forward to making his first Champions League start for Liverpool

Rickie Lambert looking forward to making his first Champions League start for Liverpool

PA

Rickie Lambert looking forward to making his first Champions League start for Liverpool

Rickie Lambert no longer wants to be considered a back-up striker at Liverpool - but he admits that he needed to toughen up mentally to prove he deserved his place at the club after a troubled start.

Lambert believes that he made it too easy for Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool manager, to see him as offering a supporting role after his summer move from Southampton.

In a confessional interview ahead of tonight's key Champions League meeting with Ludogorets, Lambert admitted that there were times he questioned his own ability during a difficult start at Anfield.

Lambert (32) says his attitude has changed over the past few months. "I want to play in every game," he said.

"When I came here, mentally I probably let myself think that I wasn't going to start every game - which I shouldn't have done. Whoever was in the squad, I should have been thinking that I want to be the first-choice striker, whether I was up against the best strikers in the world or not. That's what I have done throughout my career.

"Maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind when I came here. I let myself think that I was going to be back-up when I first came into the club, but after a few games I realised I'm not used to that. I am used to playing, so it was hard.

Silly

"It would be silly to say no, I didn't lose faith in my ability. I think I did question myself in some stages because I know the size of the club; it has taken me a while mentally to get into the right mind frame to be a Liverpool player. I am not going to hide from that. That is the reality.

"It was difficult at first but I feel I am in a better place now. My confidence is back and has been for a while. I have just been desperate for the opportunity.

"It was hard getting used to a club like Liverpool, the size of it, the pressure, but I have not regretted coming here for a second. I knew it was going to be a long season so I just had to bide my time.

"Obviously, I've been desperate to play more often but I know that the gaffer does appreciate me. I knew he was going to put me in at some point.

"I think the whole thing about this being my club, it being the club I supported all my life, has worked against me in that it has put more pressure on me and I struggled at first to handle that.

"By that I mean I put too much pressure on my own shoulders. I'm my own biggest critic and I wanted to hit the ground running more than anyone and it didn't quite happen at first.

"I am sure my first impression I gave to everyone here was not the one I wanted to give. I can understand why I might not have been starting every game. I knew I just had to wait because I knew it was only a matter of time before I scored. Now the first one is out of the way hopefully, there are a lot more to come."

Lambert is expected to retain his place in Bulgaria, with Mario Balotelli absent through injury, and his confidence was helped by his goal last weekend in the 3-1 defeat at Crystal Palace.

"You could tell from my face how overjoyed I was and there was a lot of frustration in the celebration as well," he said.

"There were a lot of different emotions. I had been waiting for that moment for a long time so there was a lot of relief. It was just good to get off the mark. All I could remember thinking was: 'Where are the fans?' It was all I wanted to do - get on the scoresheet for Liverpool.

"It's hard to go through any length of time without scoring but especially when you are waiting or your first goal at Liverpool. The goal was just a chance to let it all go."

Lambert said that it was now up to the players to start performing rather than allowing Rodgers to assume responsibility, as he did following the weekend defeat.

"What Brendan said on Sunday shows the kind of manager he is and full credit to him for saying that. But it was quite obvious that it wasn't the manager's fault on Sunday," Lambert said.

"The fault was with the people on the pitch. There was nothing wrong tactically, it was simply that we lost the battle. Every one of us was not good enough and we need to be a lot, lot better.

"We understand the situation we're in. I expected to come here challenging for the Premier League. The situation we are in is not good. It's hard. It is horrible, it is really horrible to see Liverpool in this position. It's hurting everyone at the club."

A performance in Europe would help. Lambert said: "It's massive, it's huge. We have waited so long to get in the Champions League and we have got a chance, as bad as the league position is now, to turn it around.

"We believe we can do it. If we can go through to the next round who knows what can happen. I have seen what this club can do in the Champions League before even when they are not doing so well in the league. We are all desperate to get through to the next round." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Ludogorets v Liverpool,

Live, RTE 2/Sky Sports, 7.45

Irish Independent