With 14 goals in 37 appearances and a top-half finish still a possibility, it’s fair to say that Rickie Lambert’s first season in the Premier League has been a success. The 31-year-old tells us that it has been an unforgettable year – and now it’s time to finish it on a high.
With one game left, you’ll probably be starting to look back on the season as a whole. From your point of view, how do you think it has gone?
It’s been everything I wanted it to be and more. We’ve obviously had disappointing parts of the season, but the good parts have more than made up for them. We’ve outplayed some of the best teams in the Premier League and in the world, and they are some of the best memories I’ll have when my career comes to an end. I’ve absolutely loved my first season in the Premier League and I’m looking forward to some more next season.
On a personal level, you must look back on how you have done with quite a lot of pride.
Massively. Personally, it has been a long time coming, so it’s meant a lot – right from getting promotion and through every single game. I’ve enjoyed every single minute, and it’s been a pleasure to come up with Southampton. From the day I arrived, I have loved it – the fans, the atmosphere at the club and especially the players.
One thing that applies to both you and the club is that a lot of people doubted you before the season started. It must feel nice to have thrown a few of those criticisms back at people.
We were always confident we could do more than stay up. It’s been a challenge – especially after the start we had – but we always knew we could. Questions about myself have been going on for years, so it’s nothing new. I’m sure they’ll continue in the future, but I couldn’t ask for anything better because they just drive me on and they always will do. Hopefully there’ll be more questions to come because I’ll keep trying to prove people wrong.
Let’s talk about Stoke. There’s a bit of a score to settle here, because that was a really strange game up there just after Christmas.
That was one of our best performances. For most of that game, we were awesome but, when they get on top of you at their ground, it is an intimidating place. I honestly thought we’d held on, but a wonder-goal in the last few seconds snatched it away from us. That was devastating, but it’s football.
The opportunity to finish the season on a high must be one that you all want to grasp, especially with it still being possible to finish as high as tenth place.
That’s what we’ll be thinking of going into the game. It’s so tight down there, and some of the teams above us haven’t got easy games – not that I’d ever say in a million years that we have. But we have got a chance of finishing tenth, 11th or 12th so that’s what we’ll be aiming for on Sunday. Wherever we end up, though, it’s massively important that we finish on a high. I think the players, the fans and the club deserve a good send off at the end of an excellent debut Premier League season. I think the fans have enjoyed it as much as the players – they’ve had a few not-so-good seasons, so I’m made up for them. We’re back where we belong, and I think we’ve given them something to shout about this season. I hope we can make them smile and cheer one last time this weekend.
Read the full interview with Rickie Lambert – which includes his thoughts on not being named in the starting line up on the first day of the season – inside Sunday’s official matchday programme, priced at just £3 in and around St Mary’s Stadium.
You can also read the feature inside ‘The Southampton Way’ iPad publication which is available to download now.