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Rochdale 1 v 2 Bristol Rovers
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 2nd November 2019 Kick-off 15:00
Played For Both - Dale v Bristol Rovers
Thursday, 31st Oct 2019 09:00 by Chaff

A new feature for the site will see us look at specific players who have played for both ourselves and our upcoming opponents. First up we look at a former Daley and a former Pirate.

Rickie Lambert

A cracking start to this new feature sees us have a look at one of our most successful ever players, Rickie Lambert. Don’t be expecting them all to be this long, we may well have peaked early with this one!

Steve Parkin was the man who brought Lambert to Rochdale from Stockport County back in February 2005 for a fee, believed to be around the £35,000 mark. I remember getting a telling off from a club staff member for posting the rumour on the message board and was told that Parkin had gone mental as the rumour being posted could have scuppered the deal, but the deal went through and the attacking midfielder arrived at Spotland in a bid to kick-start his career.

Lambert joined Macclesfield Town in 2001 having been released by Blackpool in November 2000 and quite quickly began to make a name for himself as a goalscoring midfielder and it wasn’t long before he left the Moss Rose for nearby Stockport County for a then record transfer fee of £300,000 in April 2002. It took a while for Lambert to rediscover his goalscoring form and his first season at Edgeley Park saw him only score twice in 32 appearances. His second season was a lot more successful and scored 12 goals in 40 appearances.

Stockport, and Lambert himself struggled in the 2004/05 season and when it became very apparent that County were going to be relegated, the club sold Lambert to Rochdale and it’s fair to say it was a successful move for the lad.

Steve Parkin, for all his faults, really knew how to pick a striker. He’d signed Platt and Connor in his first spell, then even managed to bring in an ageing Tony Ellis. In his second spell he’d brought in Grant Holt and Chris Dagnall and even though Lambert had been successful in an attacking midfield role, Parkin saw him as a natural finisher and decided to try him up top. Safe to say it worked! Lambert scored 6 goals in his first 14 games for Dale up until the end of the 2004/05 season.

The following season was even better as he rattled in 22 goals and featured in every league game for Rochdale. He became an instant hero among the Dale fans who hadn’t really had much to celebrate as a bottom half finish on just 56 points showed just how reliant we had become on Lambert’s goals.

It wasn’t even just the amount of goals he scored but the way he scored them. He was a set piece specialist and my Dad always said that he was the first player he’d seen in a Dale shirt who he actually expected to score free kicks from anywhere, not just hope. He said they were almost as good as a penalty to Lambert.

Unfortunately, with maybe the exception of Ian Henderson, when a player starts scoring goals on a regular basis, we don’t expect to be able to hold onto them for too long. The added financial issues we were going through as well meant that when a significant bid came in, there was no chance we were keeping hold of Lambert and that’s what happened as this weekends opponents Bristol Rovers came in with a bid of £200,000. We had no choice, but Bristol Rovers had just had our pants down and got the bargain of the century for a prolific striker.

Not only did Lambert score a shed load of goals for Dale the previous season but he’d done it in a squad seriously lacking in quality and a lot of his goals, he’d had to create himself. Our loss was Bristol Rovers’ gain.

I’d even put a picture of Lambert and Holt on the star on my Christmas Tree at home!

To be brutally honest, Lambert struggled initially at Bristol Rovers and only managed 10 goals for the Gas in his first season, but they secured promotion to League One regardless.

His second season at Bristol Rovers saw him quickly rediscover his goalscoring form and smashed in 19 goals in their first season back in League One and once again had people taking notice. If they weren’t taking notice after that season, then they certainly were in the 2008/09 season as Lambert went on to score 29 goals in 48 games. He scored all four goals at home to Southend and bagged a hattrick away at Hereford.

Bristol Rovers reluctantly had to let Lambert leave when Southampton came in with a £1 million offer. Southampton were in League One at the time and Lambert went on to score 37 goals that season for the Saints to become an instant hero at St Marys. A ten-point deduction scuppered the Saints promotion plans and without it, they would have easily got into the League One playoffs that season.

The 2010/11 season would see Lambert play both us and Bristol Rovers as Rochdale had achieved promotion for the first time in 40 odd years and joined both Southampton and Bristol Rovers in League One. Although he could do nothing about the mighty Dale coming to St Marys and footballing Saints to death in a brilliant 2-0 win for the Dale, Lambert went on to score 21 goals as Southampton stormed to automatic promotion to the Championship. Rochdale did manage to do the double over Saints that season as we also beat them 2-0 at home!

Would the Championship be a massive step up for Lambert? If it was, nobody told him as he went on to score 31 goals in another successful season in which Southampton secured back to back promotions and head straight for the Premier League.

Lambert’s first season in the Premier League was a huge success as well. Southampton took on money bags Manchester City on the opening weekend of the season and although they lost 3-2 to Citteh, Lambert got himself on the scoresheet. He also scored against Manchester United two weeks later and went onto bag himself 15 goals in his first season in the Premier League.

His prolific record and impressive season in the Premier League got people talking about a place in the England side and sure enough, Lambert was selected for the England squad for a Friendly against Scotland, like there is such a thing! Not only did Lambert come on and make his England debut but he scored the winner in a 3-2 victory with his very first touch! Can you get a better international debut than that!?

Lambert went onto score 17 goals that season and his international career continued, and he went onto make 11 appearances for England, scoring 3 goals. He even went to the World Cup in 2014 and came on as a late substitute against Uruguay in a 2-1 defeat as England crashed out in the group stage.

Lambert, a boyhood Liverpool supporter, had come up through the youth ranks at Liverpool before being released and joining Blackpool came full circle in 2014 as he joined his boyhood club for a fee of around £4 million but struggled to make a name for himself and only managed 3 goals that season for the Scousers.

A move to West Brom followed but he struggled again and eventually joined Cardiff City before hanging his boots up at the end of the 2016/17 season.

He didn’t last very long at Dale but the impact he had was huge. Not just for us but for himself as I truly believe the move to Rochdale kickstarted his career and he went onto have an unbelievable career in football and achieve things no other former Dale player has been able to do. The sale of Lambert, as furious as I was over the price, was a hugely significant help to keep the club afloat.

Photo: Action Images

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