Tuesday, 26 April 2011
361 Rickie Lambert
Position : Forward (also played in midfield)
Played : 2004-05 to 2006-07
Appearances : 64
Goals : 28
Rickie was signed in February (the first new face in the team since October) from Stockport for around £25K plus sell-on clauses. Rickie's career got off to a false start at Blackpool where, after three substitute appearances in 1999-2000 he seems to have drifted out of the game altogether before reappearing at Macclesfield in March 2001. The following season he made his mark, getting on the board with a hat-trick against Luton and finishing the season with 8. Stockport then paid £300,000 for him as soon as the season closed. Rickie had a rollercoaster ride there struggling to score in his first season, doing well in his second and being absolutely vilified for an apparent lack of effort as the team headed for relegation in his third. GMR's phone line was bombarded with County fans every week slagging him off for being lazy and overweight.
This made him sound like the antithesis of a Parkin player so his signing was a major surprise. In a sideswipe at Stockport Parkin said it was just a question of fitness (despite the abuse Rickie had played in virtually every game up to his departure). You could sort of see why Rickie might attract some flak in a team not doing so well . Tackling wasn't part of his game, he had no pace and a languid style of play so the phrase "luxury player" might come to mind. I can recall one or two negative comments about his non-performance at Bury in April 2005 but otherwise he just scored too often to be criticised.
Rickie started out in midfield for us and scored with a header in his second game against Kidderminster. The first of his trademark thunderbolt free kicks was the winner against Northampton in March. He was moved into a striking role after Paul Tait's sending-off at Sawnsea and has stayed there since regardless of club. Although a big guy Rickie was never a centre forward in the sense of being able to play with his back to the goal and out-jump a centre half though he could get his head onto crosses. He preferred to play off Grant Holt and struggled to score from open play once he'd gone.
Rickie was a good passer of the ball and deceptively skilful on the ground getting one or two goals where the defence clearly weren't expecting a sudden shimmy from the giant bearing down on them. Of his 28 goals , 8 were free kicks, 4 were penalties and one went straight in from a corner. The rest were from open play. Rickie's last goal for us away at Lincoln in May 2006 made him the division's joint top scorer for 2005/06 a season in which he'd played every game.
Rickie was now a hot property and the newly-introduced August transfer window was a time of great fear. He made 3 goalless appearances for us, struggling to make an impact as we got off to a bad start then, cruelly on the last day of the month he was gone, to Bristol Rovers for £200,000 plus the usual clauses. In hindsight Rickie's departure started the countdown to the Hillcroft era but at the time it seemed like a death sentence.
Although he got off to his customary slow start at Rovers he eventually started banging the goals in and helped them to promotion through the play-offs inevitably scoring a winner against us on the way. The goals kept flowing in League One too particularly in his final season, 2008-09, when he scored 29 including 4 in one match against Southend.That got him a £1 million move to Southampton. Last season he was phenomenal, scoring 37 in all competitions and getting a goal at Wembley in the Johnstone Paints Trophy Final. He hasn't been quite as hot this season but 19 at the time of writing is still pretty good.