Rickie Lambert is a 31-year-old striker who plays his club soccer for Southampton in the English Premier League, and his unbelievable story makes Disney movies look like statistics seminars.
Lambert was born in Liverpool, and wasn't able to make a living from soccer until his early twenties. Until his professional contracts began to cover his expenses, Lambert made £20 a day screwing lids onto jars in a beetroot factory.
For much of his career, Lambert bounced around England's lower leagues, spending time with Macclesfield Town, Stockport County and Bristol Rovers. In 2008-09, at the age of 26, Lambert scored 29 goals in 45 games for Bristol Rovers in England's third tier.
That year, former Premier League regulars Southampton had just been relegated to the third tier for the first time since 1960. They paid just over £1 million for Lambert, hoping his grit and tenacity would help them scrounge together some goals.
Over the next two seasons, Lambert scored 57 goals.
From swerving free kicks to long-range blasts to ice-cold, unstoppable penalties, Lambert outclassed and outhustled the opposition at every opportunity. Southampton were promoted back to the second tier in 2011-12 after just two years.
Their stay in the second tier turned out to be even shorter. Continuing to score at a blistering pace, Lambert scored 27 goals in 42 games, including three hat tricks, and was named the division's Player of the Year. Southampton earned back-to-back promotions, and after seven years, they found themselves back in the English Premier League.
Southampton's rapid ascent left doubts over whether they'd be able to cope with the challenging Premier League, regarded as the strongest top-to-bottom league competition in the world. Prior to the season, Southampton was widely picked for relegation back to the second tier - their average position in preseason rankings was 18th out of 20.
Rickie Lambert scored against defending champions Manchester City in his first ever Premier League appearance, joining a select group of players to have scored a goal in all of England's top four divisions. Thanks in large part to Lambert's 15 goals, Southampton avoided relegation, finishing comfortably in 14th place.
Lambert's determination and work ethic hadn't gone unnoticed. England's national team has struggled to find dependable players who can provide depth at the striker position, and over the course of last season there were a number of pleas from fans and media eager to give Lambert a shot with the national side.
Last week on August 8th, the same day as the birth of his third child, the 31-year-old Lambert was called up to represent England for the very first time.
England coach Roy Hodgson has struggled to find reliable depth at the striker position, and after trying out a number of unconvincing players he gave Lambert the opportunity to represent his country. In England's first match against rival Scotland in 14 years, with the game tied at 2 and just over twenty minutes to play, Rickie Lambert took the field.
England won a corner kick shortly after Lambert came on. Everton left-back Leighton Baines delivered a geometrically perfect arcing cross, and Lambert outjumped his defender to smash it home with his very first touch of the game. For Lambert, a decade after working in a beetroot factory, it was like something out of a dream.
To feel what the moment meant to the player, all you have to do is listen.Back to the Soccer Newsfeed