Saints forward set to lead the line for his country in Ukraine on Tuesday evening.
England head coach Roy Hodgson believes that people, himself included, have been too quick to pass judgement on Southampton front man Rickie Lambert’s goal-scoring abilities at the highest level, reports the Independent.
The 31-year-old is set to start for his country in their crucial FIFA World Cup Group H qualifier against rivals Ukraine in Kiev on Tuesday night due to a succession of injuries to England’s first-choice strikers.
Hodgson is without the likes of Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney, Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge and West Ham United’s Andy Carroll for the trip to the Ukrainian capital, in a fixture the Three Lions cannot afford to lose if they still wish to keep qualification for next summer’s World Cup finals in Brazil in their own hands.
And that means another start for the in-form Saints forward, who has already made two appearances for England so far this season, scoring two goals.
Lambert enjoyed a dream debut for England as he came off the substitutes’ bench to head home a late winner with his very first touch in international football against arch-rivals Scotland at Wembley Stadium last month.
He then followed that up by netting on his first-ever start for his country in Friday’s 4-0 victory over group whipping boys Moldova, and Hodgson says critics have been wrong about Lambert’s qualities as a centre-forward.
“In football we go down roads sometimes and say ‘This is what a centre-forward should look like”. Sometimes we forget that you can still be a good centre-forward or right-back or centre-half without having those qualities,” Hodgson said.
“Let’s take a classic example, if we were looking at Bobby Moore today and saying ‘What has our centre-half got to be like?’ we’d say: ‘He has to be very athletic, very fast, very quick on the turn and recovery and come out with the ball from the back and beat people’.
“A lot of people would say ‘He can’t do this, that and the other’’ Perhaps in the past we were [more] kind.
“The great Tottenham team with Dave Mackay and Danny Blanchflower, there were lots of things they couldn’t do. But there were things they could do and we admired them and built them up for the things they could do.
“Sometimes I think we are a bit quick to say, ‘Well, he is not quick enough not big enough strong enough.’
“The boy Tom Carroll [at Spurs, on loan at QPR] is an example for me. In the Under-21s, I worked with him for a week and saw him play and he is an outstanding footballer. But people say he is very slight, he’s not very big, he’s not strong. That’s what we tend to do these days.
“Perhaps Rickie is someone who has come into that category. They have watched him and then found a fault, ie he can’t run like Theo Walcott.”