Rickie Lambert Q&A
Rickie Lambert discusses his personal form and World Cup ambitions along with his fellow Southampton talent, England's Adam Lallana, Three Lions debutant Luke Shaw and youngster Sam Gallagher...
Last Updated: 14/03/14 10:58pm
The next couple of months will be massive in the career of Rickie Lambert.
Southampton's star striker will aim to help his club achieve at least a top-eight finish in the Premier League and, then, he will hope his form has been enough to secure a place at the World Cup.
Lambert was an unused substitute in England's friendly win over Denmark earlier in March and he has not scored at club level since the beginning of February but he is still thought to have a very good chance of going to Brazil.
It is an incredible journey for a 32-year-old who only made his senior international debut last August and it could yet still only be the beginning of the story.
But Lambert, speaking at the launch of Titanfall, knows he cannot rest on his laurels. Here, he discusses his personal form and World Cup ambitions along with his fellow Southampton talent, England's Adam Lallana, Three Lions debutant Luke Shaw and youngster Sam Gallagher.
How is it generally going with you and Southampton at present?
"It is going okay. We had a little bit of a dip but we won on Saturday. Hopefully we can go on a little bit of a run. For me, personally, obviously I want to start scoring again. Not scoring is frustrating but my main objective is to win."
You have scored a few, though, haven't you? Michu and Christian Benteke have both had injury problems but they were expected to have another excellent season yet you have scored more goals than both of them in all competitions. Maybe it has been tougher?
"I have found it harder this season. I have missed chances where I probably would have taken them last season. It is just little differences which are making all the difference with the amount of goals I have scored. But I feel I am still playing the same. I am adapting better to the formation and I am adapting better to the way the gaffer wants me to play. That is not always better for scoring goals but that is not the most important thing. It is probably one of the most important things but it is not everything."
Is Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino asking you to play differently this season to how you have done in the past?
"It is not just me. I think last year it was hard for him to adopt his philosophy straight away, because obviously it was halfway through the season. This season, he has shown me a lot more in depth of how he wants me to play, where he wants me to be at certain times, and I think I understand what he means now. It is working. I am getting in spaces which give other people more space and it is giving them more time on the ball. It is better for the team."
Do you feel confident you can still contribute goals playing that way?
"Obviously I am. Like I said, I want to score more. I am disappointed with my goals tally this season so that is something I want to address in the remaining games."
Do you think that is going to be an important aspect in you pushing for a place in the World Cup squad?
"I think so. It is not everything, like I said, but it is the most important thing for a striker to score goals. I do not think I will be getting judged purely on my goals but it will help if I score quite a few between now and the end of the season."
Are you now feeling more settled in the England squad after being involved again against Denmark?
"I was a lot more relaxed and was not overwhelmed, not that I was too overwhelmed the first time, but I was taking it in. I was just overjoyed to get the call-up again. It had been a few months since the last call-up. I thought it might not come and that might be my last chance."
Does it feel strange that it was only a short time ago that you were over the moon to get a call-up whereas now you are pushing for a place in the World Cup squad?
"At the beginning of the season, I knew it was a World Cup year and so, as an English player, I had a chance. I feel a lot more confident now than before my first call-up. That is through me doing well when Roy Hodgson has given me the chance. I would like to think that is in his mind at the minute and hopefully I can carry on trying to impress with Southampton and, if I get a chance again, in training or wherever. That [in training] is where I try and impress, because that is the only time I get to impress with Roy. I did not play [against Denmark] so I know my main thing was to try and impress in training."
How does it feel when pundits and the media draw up their lists of probable World Cup squads and pretty much everyone includes your name?
"The recognition I have got this year is completely different to the rest of my career. I think I have always done a lot, lot better than the credit I have got. This year, I have maybe not done as well as last year but I think a lot of the critics have been very nice to me, which I have not been used to in my career. It is nice, because you want to be liked, but I know that is not going to make up Roy Hodgson's mind so it does not really matter to me that much."
It has been suggested it could be a decision between you and West Ham United's Andy Carroll to go to the World Cup. Do you see it that way?
"Probably. There is a chance both of us might not go but he [Hodgson] does like that type of striker so there is a big possibility that one of us will go. I do not think both of us will go so there is no hiding the fact that there is a big possibility that that is what is going to happen."
You must have been pleased for Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana to see how well they did against Denmark?
"I was. When Luke went on, I could not stop smiling, because I have seen him come from the youth team. It is brilliant when that happens to see him progress like that. He was really nervous, as you would be at 18, and I was trying to reassure him. But I knew I did not have to, because he is that good I knew when he got on the pitch he was going to be fine."
What did you say to him and where were you? Were you in the dressing room at Wembley?
"I was on the opposite side of the dressing room, because he was No.12 and I was No.26. Due to the size of the changing room, I had to walk over a couple of times and say, 'how are you doing?'. He would say, 'yeah, I am okay'. The experienced lads in the squad are really good as well. They were really good with me and especially good with Luke and making him feel comfortable and relaxed."
Luke never seems fazed when he makes a step up either into Southampton's first team, the Premier League or then for England, does he?
"Normally it takes a kid six months to adapt to professional football but he adapted straightaway. I have only seen that once and that was Chambo [Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain]. So to see two in the space of that time is frightening."
Adam did not do his chances any harm either with another good performance against Denmark and setting up Daniel Sturridge's goal, did he?
"I think he did very well the last time he played as well and again he has done exceptionally well. He has done what he has been doing all season, creating chances, looking comfortable on the ball and, as soon as he gets on the ball, you know he can create chances out of anything. It was brilliant to see him do that again. I am made up he got an assist."
A few people have suggested, with Wayne Rooney's form dipping for England, Adam could push for that No.10 role. What are your views?
"I do not think he [Hodgson] will be dropping Wayne Rooney. If we are going to do well, not to put pressure on him [Rooney] - because he is under more pressure than anyone I have seen in my life - we need our best players to play and play well."
What about Adam potentially coming off the bench in the No.10 role?
"I think there are other positions for Adam to take up. He [Hodgson] has played a number of formations and in probably all of them there is a position for Ads'. I think there are a number of lads who have done superb this season so I am biased. Because he is at Southampton, I would love Adam to have a starting place but obviously it is going to be hard for him. He has got to try and impress just as much as me in the remaining months."
How much of a personal achievement would it be for you to be on that team bus going to Manaus for England's first game at the World Cup against Italy?
"I know everyone says it would mean everything but it has happened so fast in the last couple of years that it is hard to take in and I am just rolling with it. If it happens, I will try and enjoy it. But it will probably be years from now that I actually look back and realise what has actually happened, because it has been mad the last couple of years. Like I said, it is a chance I am desperate to take."
Normally now you would be thinking ahead to booking a summer holiday. Is that a nice feeling to not be thinking about a holiday? Would you have friends or family going to Brazil?
"(Laughing) Obviously I have got my close family, if I do go, that is who I will be taking. If I go, I am sure there may be a few others who will try and get over as well."
Sam Allardyce has been pushing Andy Carroll's case but he has also been saying that, because Carroll has been injured, if he can put together a run towards the end of the season, he will be the freshest striker available to Hodgson. Is there any fear on your part that a long, tough season can take its toll?
"No, it is something that is up to Roy Hodgson to take into account. A Premier League season is hard so I am not going to try and deny that. But I am sure I am not going to be the only one in that physical state. That is why what they [England's staff] have got planned after the season, I am sure when it comes round to the World Cup the players are going to be refreshed and ready to go again. It is something he [Hodgson] might look into but I have just got to try and do what I can do."
As a fellow striker, you must be impressed and pleased with Southampton youngster Sam Gallagher?
"Yeah, he has done superb. He came in and I thought it might have been a little too early for him. But within a month or two months, the progression again, fair play to the gaffer, has been frightening. Whether they [young players] are going to do well or not do well, he [Pochettino] tends to give them six months. I have not yet seen one who has not progressed so full credit to Sam. He has come on leaps and bounds and I try and help him in any way I can."
Do you see yourself in Sam?
"A little bit but I think he is a lot better striker than I was at that stage. He knows how to play already with the two up top and especially the one up top. Credit to him that he has got great understanding of the game at a young age."
Last season, Swansea City and West Bromwich Albion did really well and once they got to around 40 points, about the same total as Southampton have now, they dropped off. How important is it for Southampton to continue your great progress?
"It would be very disappointing if we do tail off. It is mental, it is nothing else. It is as simple as that. But I think from the very start we were pushing for the top four and then the top six and now we are pushing for the top eight. That is what we will be trying to do. It is easy for me to say we are trying our best but the gaffer is determined that we are not taking it easy in training. It is completely the opposite, training is getting harder."
After the club has made so much progress in the last few years, how important will it be this summer to keep hold of the likes of Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw?
"It means everything. We have built our team around a group of players and we should be proud of our season. It all depends on how we finish but we should be proud. We gave it our best and we have got into a good position. Hopefully we can go up another position. If we do, then there is no reason why we cannot progress onto the next level if the owners and the people in charge are willing to do it, because if we keep the players and add three or four quality players then we can. It is going to be hard to keep hold of our best players but hopefully we can."
Ralph Krueger sounds like quite a character. Has he been a breath of fresh air since arriving as chairman?
"He is very energetic. He makes you feel positive right away so I am hoping he is the right man for the job. I do not know too much about him but his character is infectious and I know he has been very successful in his other sport so hopefully he can bring some of that to football."
Rickie Lambert was speaking at the launch of Titanfall, out now on Xbox One and PC. Prepare for Titanfall at Titanfall.com