LFC Advent Calendar 9 – Rickie Lambert
Luis Suarez made quite a few waves during his time at Liverpool. From his conflict and racial insult of Manchester United’s Patrice Evra, through his attempt to force a move to Arsenal in 2013 and his unhealthy human flesh diet, to his glorious 31-goal contribution to the ultimately doomed 2013/14 title run, there was rarely a dull moment with the controversial Uruguayan. He finally got his wish to leave and found a new home at the Camp Nou in 2014, leaving manager Brendan Rodgers scratching his head and wondering what to do.
With a rather sizeable transfer kitty (at the time) at his disposal, Rodgers opted for quantity in his attempt to strengthen the squad for the upcoming challenges. Among others from elsewhere, three players found their way to Anfield from Southampton – Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, and Rickie Lambert.
The role that had been envisioned for the 32-year-old striker was clearly a peripheral one, with Daniel Sturridge, Mario Balotelli and Fabio Borini all set to feature more prominently than him. Rodgers preferred attacking players with pace over those with power, as he showed in no uncertain terms when he got rid of the club’s record signing at the time, Andy Carroll.
However, he now had the funds to add a bit of height and strength to the forward line, and signing Lambert as a fourth-choice striker for £4million certainly represented a low-risk investment.
However, things rarely turn out the way you plan them to, and Rodgers soon felt the sting of that hard truth of life.
Sturridge soon got injured and his long-enduring woes began. Balotelli was given a chance to be the lone gunman upfront in a 4-2-3-1 formation and he utterly failed. Further more, his well-documented attitude problems began resurfacing. Rodgers then gave Borini a go, but the Italian was simply invisible on the pitch.
Enter Rickie Lambert.
It must’ve been a huge pressure for Lambert to break into the starting XI in this manner, something that he certainly hadn’t been counting on. With the brilliance of Suarez still fresh in their minds, and the frustrations caused by Sturridge’s injuries, Balotelli’s antics on and off the pitch and Borini’s invisibility cloak, the fans were ready to pounce on his back as soon as he failed to replicate any of the great strikers of Liverpool’s glorious past. And let’s face it, he was never going to do that, was he?
But the truth is, signing Lambert was not that bad a decision when all said and done. In him, Liverpool had a player who was always ready to give 101% for the cause, and who has been a true Liverpool fan at heart his entire life.
Signed at the age of 32 for £4million, to be the fourth-choice striker, it’s fair to say Lambert did more than his share. In fact, of all the strikers, only Sturridge managed to score more goals in all competitions (4) than Lambert, who found the net the same number of times as Balotelli (3) and more than Borini (1).
It’s a strong indictment of Rodgers’ options for the position that he later chose to convert Raheem Sterling to his most advanced player on the pitch, but of all four designated strikers, it can be argued that only Lambert actually did the job originally planned for him during the 2014/15 season.
In the summer of 2015 he moved to West Bromwich Albion as Liverpool signed Christian Benteke and Danny Ings, and 12 months later he joined Cardiff City. He retired from playing in 2017 at the age of 35, and with 11 caps and three goals for England to his name.