Liverpool Striker Bids Farewell to Anfield
After only one season at Liverpool, in which he made 16 appearances, scored six goals, created one assist and got one PoM, veteran striker Rickie Lambert has left Anfield with a teary farewell to join Queens Park Rangers for the 2015/16 season.
Lambert was born and brought up in the Westvale area of Kirkby, Merseyside by parents Maureen and Ray. Lambert joined Liverpool as a youngster aged 10, but was released when he was 15. Lambert tried out for non-league side Marine, before becoming a trainee with Blackpool in August 1998 at the age of 16. He made his professional debut on 7 August 1999 as a 17-year-old, coming on as a 68th-minute substitute against Wrexham at Bloomfield Road. He made two subsequent substitute appearances in the 1999–2000 season. The following season Lambert was on a month-to-month contract and struggling to get a place in the reserves. He was released by Steve McMahon in November 2000.
Lambert remained a free agent for almost four months, during which time he worked in a beetroot bottling plant to make ends meet, until he was signed by another Third Division club, Macclesfield Town in March 2001, where he made a total of 9 league appearances in the remainder of the 2000–01 season. In the 2001–02 season Lambert became a regular for Macclesfield, with a total of 40 appearances and 10 goals, his first two finishes coming in a 2–2 draw with Forest Green Rovers in the FA Cup on 17 November 2001. Just a week later, Lambert scored his first hat-trick in a 4–1 league win against Luton Town.
Macclesfield received a club record transfer fee of £300,000 for Lambert from Second Division side Stockport County, in a move which was completed on 26 April 2002. In his first season in the third-tier, Lambert made a total of 32 appearances in all competitions, although only scored two goals (both in league matches) – in a 2–5 loss against Swindon Town on 18 January 2003, and in a 2–2 draw with former club Blackpool on 22 March 2003. The 2003–04 season would prove to be Lambert's most successful (on a personal) yet, as 40 league appearances yielded 12 goals in a relegation-threatened season, including another against Blackpool and two in a late win against Rushden & Diamonds in the late stages of the season. Lambert was a regular for Stockport at the beginning of the newly restructured 2004–05 season, but following poor team performances and a very real threat of relegation for the club he left in February 2005.
Despite now being a relatively accomplished player, Lambert moved down a division to League Two club Rochdale from Stockport on 17 February 2005, the day after his 23rd birthday, for an undisclosed fee. Lambert scored his first goal for the club only nine days after his transfer, in a 1–1 draw with Kidderminster Harriers, but could not help secure promotion for the club. In 2005–06 the striker featured in all 46 of Rochdale's league matches, scoring a total of 22 goals in the campaign, including one in a 3–1 defeat of former club Macclesfield Town.
Early into the 2006–07 season, Lambert was purchased for £200,000 from Rochdale by Bristol Rovers in a move finalised on 31 August 2006, transfer deadline day. Despite quickly establishing himself as a regular member of the squad, it took Lambert until November to score his first goal for the club, in the last-minute of a 2–0 win over Barnet. The remainder of the season proved to be a disappointment for the forward, although an 86th-minute goal in the last league game of the season against Hartlepool United ultimately sent Bristol Rovers into the League Two Play-offs, from which they won promotion to League One. Lambert also scored the only goal in the League Trophy Southern Area Final in a Bristol derby against local rivals Bristol City, which ultimately sent the team into the final with Doncaster Rovers (which they lost 2–3 after extra time).
On 10 August 2009, with a total of 155 appearances and 59 goals for Bristol Rovers, Lambert completed a move worth in excess of £1 million to recently relegated League One club Southampton. The striker scored on his debut for The Saints against Northampton Town on 11 August 2009, and went on to become the club's top scorer for that season with 36 in all competitions. Other notable goals scored by Lambert during the season include one against local rivals Portsmouth in the FA Cup Fifth Round South Coast derby on 13 February 2010, a hat-trick against Milton Keynes Dons in the league on 20 March 2010, and a penalty against Carlisle United in the 4–1 League Trophy Final win at Wembley on 28 March 2010. Southampton finished the season in 7th, one place off the play-offs, despite a 10-point penalty for financial reasons. Following a season in which he performed statistically similarly to his last with Bristol Rovers, Lambert was again named in the PFA Team of the Year for League One, as well as winning the PFA Fans' Player of the Year award for the division.
On 2 June 2014, Lambert was confirmed as a Liverpool player after passing a medical, signing a two-year deal for an initial £4 million transfer fee plus add-ons. As he had been released from the club as a teenager, he said "I have always dreamt of playing for Liverpool, but I did kind of think the chance of playing for them had gone. I didn't think the chance would come."