Rickie Lambert. England’s goal machine.

Well maybe.

Without a shadow of a doubt the best thing about the England Scotland game was Rickie Lambert burying a header with his first touch. What turned out to be the winning goal came just over two minutes into his England career. I hope that for Lambert’s sake that’s not the end of his career too.

But for England’s sake we need more youth academies like the one at Southampton to start to bring on new young talent. And we need a complete overhaul of the structure of English football to make the most of the talent that is developed at club level.

Rickie Lambert deserves his England place. He deserves to be in the squad when we have our next competitive games – certainly ahead of Andy Caroll. But even Rickie Lambert himself will acknowledge that if he is the best English centre forward currently (and he is) and if Roy Hodgson is the best English manager currently (and he is) then English football is in a pretty parlous state.

Every time I see Steven Gerrard substitued after yet another woeful performance, I wonder how much longer will we have to rely on reputations that are fading fast if not already completely faded. At least Sir Rickie Lambert has enhanced his reputation today. His career with the three lions may not be long, but it is already more notable than that of some who were on the pitch with him tonight.

Let’s hope he can do the same on Saturday.

 

Love the one you’re with

Alway loved Jason Puncheon. Even when I hated him (most of last season) I had a sneaky feeling that he could still come good, and today was another outstanding performance. Whlst the fans ratings on the Ugly Inside Saints FC fanzine site are notorioulsy unreliable, he deservedly gets man of the match on current ratings. Nine out of ten is rose tinted in the extreme, but this a site where Saints fans would have given Ali Dia six out of ten just for turning up.

Puncheon scored two great goals. Unfortunately the referee didn’t share that view and chalked one off for some imaginary misdemeanour in the penalty area. The goal that stood came in the second half and not only demonstrated Puncheon’s powerful shooting, but also, and more importantly, his football brain as he ran into space whilst pointing the exact route of the pass that Clyne needed to make. The pass was made, the shot was fierce and accurate and even this referee could find nothing to complain of.

Puncheon’s performance was one of several bright spots in the game, not least being the win to nil.  In the first four games of the season we conceded 14 goals, and 10 in the next four. In the next four games we let in six goals and this improvement has continued with only two goals in the last four games played. And this improvement has not only inevitably lead to more points being won, but also means that we are now in 15th place on goal difference – unthinkable a few weeks ago.

And much of the improvement is down to the fact that in Luke Shaw we have a left back who can defend as well as attack, which has brought a much needed balance to the back line.

Southampton manager Nigel Adkins picked another strong team and managed his substituions astutley once again. He said after the game,

I thought we dominated the game and we were worthy winners. The crowd got behind the players, we played with a good tempo and it was a good 1-0 victory. The goal was excellent and one from the training ground where we get the full-backs forward.

The only disappointment for me, apart from not scoring the additional couple of goals that we (and my Betfair bet) deserved, was the pathetic booing of Guly do Prado when he came off the bench for the last 15 minutes. He again showed that he is a more accomplished player than some of the crowd give him credit for. And only bad luck luck meant that a swivel shot at the end of a slick move that he started ended up nestling in the keeper’s arms rather than the back of the net.

Hopefully people will learn to love the man they hate.

I did.