Rickie Lambert has admitted he struggles to comprehend his rise from the lower leagues to Liverpool and a World Cup with England, as the striker seeks to maintain his eyecatching scoring start to life in the national team in the final friendly before the tournament.
The forward completed a £4.5m move to Anfield shortly before departing for England’s two-game preparation in Florida, which culminates with Saturday’s game against Honduras at the Sun Life Stadium. Lambert is likely to start that match among the substitutes but his goal in the 2-2 draw with Ecuador in midweek left him with three in five caps to offer Roy Hodgson a timely reminder that he remains a potent option to fling on from the bench in Brazil.
The player who has journeyed from Blackpool to Southampton via Macclesfield, Stockport, Rochdale and Bristol Rovers before returning to Liverpool, who had released him as a schoolboy, is still pinching himself at his circuitous rise to the top. “Who knows where it ends?” he said. “You’ve got to dream. You’ve got to believe, and that’s what I’ve done all my life. I’m just rolling with it at the minute. It seems like it’s not stopping.
“You can get carried away with people who say it’s a completely different world, and you do believe that when you’re in League Two and League One, but if you believe in yourself it’s not. You have to adapt to each level and it improves you when you’re in better teams. That’s what’s happened to me over the years. Every team I’ve played in has just got better and better. It’s become a lot easier. The goal doesn’t move. It’s the same shape whatever level you’re at and the ball’s the same size and shape. It’s something we’ve practised all our lives.
“It’s been a life-changing couple of years, to be honest with you. It’s hard to describe what’s happening at the minute and I’m just trying to enjoy every second of it. It’s a dream move for me and I’m on a high from it. But at my age I’m not going to get carried away. I know what’s important.”
The 32-year-old had almost converted Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s centre in midweek for his side’s first goal – Wayne Rooney tapped in behind him – but his finish for the second was emphatically dispatched first time from Ross Barkley’s pass, his tally already impressive at this level even if it is early days in his international career. He will still start the tournament behind his new club-mate, Daniel Sturridge, in the pecking order but there is faith within the setup that he can make an impact if required. “No matter how I end up playing, I’m just trying to give my best,” added Lambert. “If it’s from the bench and if I do get my chance and come on, then I know I’ve got to do well.
“Obviously every minute counts from now and through the World Cup and I understand my role. It’s not about whether I start against Italy. It’s about the plan that Roy’s got. We’re all behind the manager. I hope what has happened to me does give hope. I said this when I first got a chance with England. It’s about working hard and believing in yourself and anything you can do to improve your lifestyle, and your own game, you’ve got to do it.
“There are still aspects I want to improve and do better. I scored the goal but there are areas I want to improve. It’s about getting to know your players as well. But, as a team, there are no agendas. We are all doing a job for the gaffer and whatever role you have in that team, that’s what it is. I’m completely happy with that and I think everyone else is as well.”