Southampton Striker Rickie Lambert: Premiership Material?

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COS contributor Jamie Clarke ponders whether the Southampton hotshot is ready for a move into the big time?

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Following the arrival of Jermaine Beckford at Everton from Leeds on a four year deal, I felt it would be intriguing to explore whether another League One footballer, Rickie Lambert, could make the cut in the Premier League, and if so who could utilise Southampton’s star-man. Some players have proved able to make the jump to the premier league, with Fulham’s Zamora an example of a lower league player who has managed to perform at the top level and the signing of Beckford represents an intriguing move from an Everton team who have previously splashed cash on strikers like Saha and Yakubu. If a top-eight premier league side are willing to chance signing Jermaine Beckford, could there be a place for Southampton’s Lambert in any premier league squad.

Jermaine Beckford signed for Everton this week on a four year deal and stated “I am excited by it […] it’s going to be a test, I know that, but I am looking forward to it.” Indeed, the transition from League One to the upper echelons of English Football will prove a difficult task, but David Moyes could well have acquired his place in the various bargain buys of the season blogs we’ll see this time next year. Beckford has pedigree at his current level, the former Chelsea trainee has twice been voted League One player of the year, scoring 85 competitive goals in 152 appearances; a goal every 1.78 games. Beckford, importantly, has scored some crucial goals amongst his impressive haul at Leeds, most notably the winner at Old Trafford in the FA Cup this year. Beckford cost Leeds £45,000 from non-league side Wealdstone and if he makes another comfortable transition this year Beckford could establish himself as a premier-league quality striker, especially if he fires Everton towards Europe. Furthermore, at the prime age of 26, Moyes has taken a relatively cheap gamble in signing Beckford on a free transfer.

So, with Everton purchasing one of the most prolific strikers in League One can Rickie Lambert also aim for the pinnacle of English football? His goal-scoring record at League One side Southampton stands respectful beside Beckford’s, with Lambert having scored 36 competitive goals in his first season with the Saints. Similarly, Lambert’s goals have also proved important and he has scored against south-coast rivals Portsmouth as well as nicking a goal in the Saint’s 4-1 League Trophy victory against Carlisle this year. He also boasts a PFA fans player of the year award and has been selected in the League One team of the year in 2008-09 and 2009-10. At 28 years old Lambert can also be considered to be in the prime of his career, another reason why he could be worth a punt in a premier league side. Lambert, unlike Beckford, would command a transfer fee and Southampton may not opt to sell, however if Beckford proves a success with Everton premier league clubs could come sniffing in January if not beforehand. But which sides would need to gamble on a league one striker to add some firepower to their attack?

Immediately Wolves spring to mind. Wolves have been toothless in attack during a relatively stable season which saw McCarthy avoid relegation. In order to improve and progress towards becoming an established premier league side, McCarthy needs some goals. Similarly, West Ham have struggled to score goals in a season which saw them flirt heavily with relegation. Perhaps Lambert represents a more realistic option to the east end side than the likes of Henry, Beckham et al. Promoted teams Newcastle, who had a £1.5 million pound bid rejected for Beckford in January, Blackpool and West Brom could also take a punt on Southampton’s clinical striker. Southampton will be reluctant to sell the man they feel could fire them to the premier league over the next few years, but a transfer request could alter their stance if Lambert decides to take a crack at the big time in the prime of his career.

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