‘A dream come true’

Rickie Lambert’s surprise return to the club he left as a trainee at least provides Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers, with something different and the England international is keen to contribute. By Carl Markham.

Liverpool striker Rickie Lambert hopes he is the missing link, which will get his new team over the line in the Premier League title race.

The Reds came agonisingly close to ending their 24-year quest to win the championship last season, with their challenge faltering in the final week, as Manchester City swept past to take top spot.

While ‘Golden Boot’ winner Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge provided the goals, which sustained their challenge, Liverpool were left desperately looking for an alternative option in a key match at home to fellow challengers Chelsea.

Jose Mourinho’s side frustrated their hosts for long periods and could not be broken down in a pivotal 2-0 defeat, which not only ended an 11-game winning streak but also dented Liverpool’s confidence.

The visitors’ massed ranks of defence kept out the trickery and speed of Suarez and Sturridge and left manager Brendan Rodgers crying out for a different option.

Lambert’s surprise return to the club he left as a trainee at least provides the Reds boss with something different and the England international is keen to contribute.

“To be honest, I wasn’t expecting a chance at Liverpool but I have got it,” said Lambert. “Now that I’ve got it, I will do everything to not let it go and I am more than confident that I will take the chance and I will be able to improve my game again. I am mentally prepared for almost anything. I’ve experienced a lot of ups and downs and I believe I am at a time in my life when anything happens I can get the most out of it.

“I know what matters is what I do on the pitch and the minutes I play (and my job is) to help push the club forward. Whatever role Brendan has for me I just hope I can help them push on and hopefully clinch the title.”

When he left Southampton in June — with the best wishes of the management, who realised they could not deny him a return to his boyhood club — the striker wrote an open letter to fans thanking them for their support.

He also stressed how important Saints, for whom he scored 117 goals in 235 appearances, including 28 goals in 75 Premier League matches, had been to his career.

A quirk of the fixture computer saw his former side up first at Anfield on the opening weekend of this season, with Liverpool edging a 2-1 victory. Lambert found himself in the unique position of being applauded by both sets of fans as he made his way onto the pitch.

“It was strange to come on against your old team-mates. I haven’t had many situations like that in my career, but you have to be as professional as you can,” he added. “It was special from the Liverpool fans making my debut, which was a dream, and it was special from Southampton fans, who showed a lot of respect and appreciation.”

Lambert fully intends to make the most of his second chance with the Merseysiders and said: “Even though I’m 32, I feel like a kid again. It’s not just playing for Liverpool, it is the fact I’m coming home. I’ve been away for eight years. All my dreams and wishes have come true in the end.”

Lambert, capped seven times by England, is still waiting for his first Liverpool goal having been denied it during a recent 3-1 loss to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. Having been introduced as a 79th-minute substitute, with the Reds trailing 3-0, Lambert’s header was parried by England colleague Joe Hart with the rebound appearing to go in off City defender Pablo Zabaleta.

© PA Sport