Rickie Lambert and Wayne Rooney couldn’t be more different. Yes, they were both born on Merseyside and they both have a rather stocky physique, but geographical roots and physical attributes is where the similarities end.
The former has spent his career toiling away in second and third division clubs, before making his Premier League bow last season, while the latter could soon depart the club that has transformed him from a raw teenager into one of the world’s best players.
And yet, despite all their difference, Rooney and Lambert could well be England’s duo up-front when the Three Lions face Scotland at Wembley on Wednesday.
Scheduling a friendly three days before the beginning of the Premier League season is the sort of pointless exercise the FA would engage in but while the game’s importance might be relative, the significance of Lambert’s call-up is undeniable.
The Southampton striker is hardly the sort of world class front-man that could propel England to World Cup glory – particularly because Roy Hodgson’s squad has bigger problems in other departments – and, as many have already quite snidely remarked, his call-up serves to further highlight England’s shortage of options up-front.
However, it is refreshing to see a player not belonging to one of the top five or six clubs in the country being rewarded for his performances, rather than for some unspecified status quo.
Granted, Lambert might not be the sort of household name likely to send shockwaves through the world of football and, for all we know, he might soon the join the likes of Francis Jeffers and David Nugent as “one cap wonders”.
Furthermore, at 31, the Saints hit-man clearly isn’t the long-term prospect the country has been craving since Wayne Rooney, and Michael Owen before him, took the European Championship by storm nine years ago and the 31-year-old style might even be too old fashioned for the sophisticated standards modern football strives for.
However, last season Lambert was the highest-scoring Englishman in the Premier League and, on that basis alone, he’s done more than enough to deserve a chance. His 15 goals were as important to secure another Premier League season for the Saints as the 27 he netted in the 2011-12 season, when Southampton achieved the second of back-to-back promotions.
Despite being a bit of a journeyman in the early stage of his career – Lambert played for five different clubs in his first decade as professional footballer – the Kirkby-born centre forward is set to begin his fifth season with Southampton, a club with which he has flourished, netting 101 goals in 190 goals, a more than respectable tally at any level.
Furthermore, Lambert was an ever-present figure in the Saints’ campaign last season, a world away from the fitness problems that plagued fellow England strikers Andy Carroll and Daniel Sturridge.
With Danny Welbeck struggling to find the net consistently, Jermain Defoe and Wayne Rooney are Roy Hodgson’s main attacking weapons, but the Spurs’ man might find life difficult at White Hart Lane this season after the arrival on Roberto Soldado, while Rooney’s future remains unknown as yet.
Darren Bent remains hopeful of making the World Cup squad, should England qualify, but, before form and goal tallies even come into the fray, the Villa man’s chances hinge on his agent’s ability to find him a club before the transfer window shuts.
In all likelihood, Rickie Lambert won’t be England’s saviour, in fact he’ll probably watch next summer’s World Cup at home with his family, but he’s performed admirably in a job he clearly loves and his efforts have paid off.
Considering what some of his colleagues have got up to this summer, there’s nothing more fans could ask from a player these days.