Very rarely are you blessed with the opportunity to interview a Premier League footballer and a member of last season’s PFA Championship team of the year. Southampton’s Rickie Lambert has been something of a revelation on the South Coast since his 2009 transfer from Bristol Rovers for a fee just in excess of £1m, striking over 70 goals in the iconic red and white jersey.
What a bargain it has turned out to be for Saints fans as the Merseysider is well on his way to becoming a Saints great, even talked about in the same breath as prodigal son Matt Le Tissier himself with onlookers drawing comparisons between the ex-Saints icon and 6 ft 2 prolific powerhouse Lambert.
If you read Lambert’s stats, you will instantly recognise that his goal tallies have improved significantly season upon season and ever since he made his debut in senior football for Blackpool in 1998, it has been one long journey towards the promised land and at the weekend, Lambert will realise a dream by stepping out at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester for his first ever taste of top flight Premier League football.
Football FanCast’s Taylor Williams caught up with 30-year-old Lambert to talk about the season ahead, where Southampton can go this year and what it actually means to finally play at this level.
Rickie, you’ve scored goals wherever you’ve been in the Football League. Will you be personally setting yourself a goals target heading into the Premier League this season?
“I’ve never set any goal scoring targets so definitely not this time either. I’ve just got to try and play well, help the team and obviously the best way to do that is to get on the score sheet.”
Nigel Adkins could be described as an eccentric character. Tell us more about his managerial style and why you think he’s been so successful at St. Mary’s?
“When he came in, it took a while for him to get across how he wanted us to play but the lads learned quickly and I think the football we have played has been outstanding. He’s very calm, he always thinks about what he says, he can rant but very rarely, he’ll think about what he says and he’ll analyse how we’ve done – good or bad, and he thinks about how we can continually improve.
Many have drawn comparisons between yourself and Norwich City’s Grant Holt in the way you have worked up through the lower divisions. How determined are you to prove yourself, considering this is your first season in the top flight?
“I’m very determined, obviously it’s taken a while for me to get to the Premier League but I don’t want to let the chance go. We want to carry on the success we’ve had over recent seasons.”
You’ve enjoyed your most successful spell at Southampton but are there any other stages of your career you look back on with extra fondness?
“Yeah, there are loads of times I look back on; at Macclesfield, there was less pressure on me there and I really enjoyed my football, then I joined Rochdale. Obviously at Stockport, it didn’t end very well but there have always been times when I’ve enjoyed it. Then I came to Southampton and things really started kicking off for me.”
What do you think of the new signings this summer? – Jay Rodriguez, Steven Davis, Nathaniel Clyne. How good a season can Saints have this year, how do you see it going?
“We’re all confident that we can do well. We all understand how hard it is going to be and the challenge we have ahead of us but we are confident that we can do well and survive.”
After your playing days have finished, what can you see yourself doing? Do you want to remain in the game in some capacity?
“I don’t know really. I’m not going to say that I’d like to be a manager or a coach right now but who’s to say I might not change my mind in a few years’ time. Right now I don’t have an idea what I’d like to do after my career is over. I’m just enjoying my football.”
Tell us about free kick duties. Will you be taking them on again this season after a few stunners in the past?
“I didn’t score that many last season. Last season I was disappointed free-kicks wise but I will try and improve.”
I suppose Adam Lallana and Steven Davis will be pushing you to take them too?
“Those two will be taking them as well. I’m not going to be taking all free-kicks and there is Danny Fox too who can take a quick free-kick as well.”
You face no mean feat on the opening weekend against champions Manchester City. Will the plan be to stifle them or are you confident in your own attacking abilities to cause them problems?
“We’ve got to give them respect – they’re the Premier League champions. We can’t go there and be scared though, we’ve got to believe we belong here which we do and the players have deserved to travel to places like that. Nobody is expecting anything from us on Sunday so there’s no pressure on us, hopefully we can enjoy it and maybe we can surprise a few people.”
So finally Rickie, have you got a message for the Southampton fans heading into the new campaign?
“Just for them to be as good as they’ve been in the last few years. Get right behind the boys and hopefully we can create some good times for them all, heading into the future.”