Prolific former Southampton marksman Rickie Lambert, who scored 117 goals in 235 games for the club, shares the best of his Saints memories...
MK Dons away, the volley, was definitely the most spectacular, but my favourite would be the one against Man City on my first Premier League appearance. If I have to pick one, I’ll go for that one because that one meant the most to me.
There are three that come straight into my head: the Man City game, the Coventry game and the Plymouth game, because they were the two promotions and the first game in the Premier League. We also had great games against Man United, Chelsea and Liverpool, and some great results, but those are the first three that come to mind, based on the importance of the results. In the game against City, even though we lost, they were the champions and we gave them a scare. We were all playing in our first Premier League game and I scored my first Premier League goal. The 2-1 win against Chelsea, when I scored the free-kick, is another special memory, so I can’t just pick one!
Scoring the goal against Man City and running to the crowd, without a doubt. I was so angry to be on the bench because I was so looking forward to playing in the Premier League – it meant so much to me over a build-up of ten years. To finally explode in one moment, run to the crowd and celebrate with my teammates was absolutely incredible. That beats the promotion to the Premier League, which would be second. There were a lot of people who doubted me in the Championship, let alone the Premier League, and didn’t think I would score. I was desperate to prove people wrong, so there were so many feelings going through me at that moment. I didn’t think it was possible for that moment to be beaten, but then I scored the winning goal on my England debut...
The back-to-back promotions and then breaking the club points record in the Premier League. That was what we all dreamed of, so to actually do it was just incredible.
Ads (Adam Lallana), without a doubt. I think being in League One helped him, because he was playing week in week out, getting stronger and tougher. When he got to the Championship, he was probably still growing and still maturing, but when he got to the Premier League he was unbelievable. Even in League One, he was already the best player I’d ever played with. I knew straightaway as soon as I saw him that he was unbelievable. He did improve – we both improved together, with the players around us – and when he got to the Premier League, in that first season he was ridiculous. And in the second season he was even better!
Kelvin (Davis). He was one of my closest friends. There was a group of us – myself, Kelvin, Dan Harding, Danny Butterfield, Chappy (Richard Chaplow) and a few others. We all went out together with our girlfriends and our kids, but Kelvin was the one who organised everything. He was a great captain in more ways than one, and off the pitch he was brilliant. He was alright as a roommate – very professional but quite funny and he’s got some good stories. He loves his cups of teas, so I would have to make them for him most of the time!
There’s two; Paul Wotton and Danny Butterfield. I think there was one year when they were both at the club together, and they were just hilarious. They were born to make us laugh. They would superglue your flip flops to the ground! They loved practical jokes, but they also knew how to take the mick out of themselves. They were brilliant for camaraderie and just helped bring everyone together. When we got promoted from League One to the Championship, we all went to Vegas, and that was one of the best trips I’ve ever been on. A big part of that was because those two were there. They were funny but ruthless – especially with new players. I can’t even say some of the stories!
I had three excellent managers – the three best managers I had in my career were the ones at Southampton, but the best one was Mauricio Pochettino. He was just brilliant, everything about him. On the pitch, technically, he had a different way to look at it, and learning from him was one of the best things I’ve ever done in football. Off the pitch, he really cared about you as well – every single person in the club, from the players to the staff. He really made everyone feel special.
Best opposition player?
David Silva. You can normally stop most players, by man marking on them or putting two men on them, but no matter what we seemed to do with Silva, he would just calm it down, get Man City playing and get them out of situations. At the other end, he would put the ball exactly where you didn’t want it to go. He was devastating, and still is today.
Best opposition team?
City were good, but nowhere near as good as they are now, so probably Chelsea. We played against them under Mourinho and they beat us at home, and they were awesome that day.
Best personal performance?
The ones where the club needed me and I delivered, instead of scoring a hat-trick when we battered a team. For that reason, I’d say the early days when I was scoring, we were winning and I knew a lot of it was on my shoulders. That was when the club needed me the most. I remember we played Torquay at home to reach the quarter-finals of the JPT and we were going out – we were losing 2-0. We got it back to 2-2, it went to penalties and we won, but for the last half an hour I was like a man possessed trying to pull us through. One stands out in the Premier League, Man United at home, when I thought I played brilliantly. We lost the game 3-2, but I came off after 75 minutes when we were 2-1 up. I was against Vidić and Rio Ferdinand, and I think I bullied both of them, so that one stands out as well.
Best team performance?
The ones that come to my head are not the ones when the other team didn’t really turn up. I remember Liverpool away when they almost won the league, and we beat them 1-0 at Anfield. We were awesome – we had a plan and we stuck to it. I also remember we beat Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool at home in the first Premier League season. But do you know the one I’m going to say? Ipswich away in the Championship, 5-2. We were unbelievable, and that made us believe we were going to get promoted. It was only two or three games into the season, but that was when we realised how good we were.