Lambert caps rise from factory floor to Wembley
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When Rickie Lambert pulls on an England shirt for the first time at Wembley on Wednesday it will complete a remarkable rise from the factory floor to the venue of legends.

Southampton striker Lambert was a surprise call-up to the England squad for Wednesday's friendly against Scotland, but the 31-year-old's presence among the Premier League's elite is even more astonishing given the humble beginning to his career.

Lambert was just 18 when he was released by Blackpool in 2000 after an unsuccessful two-year apprenticeship.

Without a contract and with barely a penny to his name, he had to resort to working in a beetroot factory near his home in Kirkby to pay for travel to Macclesfield, where he trained with the English minnows to maintain his fitness.

Macclesfield eventually noticed Lambert had something special and offered him a contract that allowed him to stop screwing lids on jars of beetroot for a living.

He became a prolific scorer for Macclesfield and earned moves to Stockport, Rochdale and Bristol Rovers, but still seemed destined to spend his career far from the bright lights and big money of the Premier League.

However, he had caught Southampton's attention when banging in the goals for Rovers in League One, notching 19 in 2008/09 and 29 the next season.

He scored 36 goals in his first season for Southampton and his 21 in the next campaign helped take them up to the Championship.

Another 31 goals pushed the Saints into the top flight and he managed 15 in 38 appearances for a team battling relegation in his first campaign in the Premier League.

The main reason I came back was because I never gave up.
Rickie Lambert

Suddenly he was worthy of international consideration and after training with the likes of Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Jack Wilshere at St George's Park on Monday, the down-to-earth Liverpudlian admitted factory life is nothing but a distant memory.

"Never, even in the bad moments, was I ever going to give up," he said. "When I was let go by Blackpool, I didn't think my time had passed but I was a million miles away from England.

"I couldn't get a club anywhere, I was training at Macclesfield without a contract and I didn't have any money so I had to earn some by working in a factory. It was a beetroot factory. I don't even like beetroot!

"I was just putting the lids on the jars. That was basically it. That was bringing in the money and I was going on training with my friend.

"But I knew I was going to get a contract and get back in to football when I was released by Blackpool. The main reason I came back was because I never gave up."

Lambert's rise is a heart-warming tale at a time when two of his more famous fellow Premier League strikers, Rooney and Luis Suarez, are painting themselves in a bad light while agitating for transfers.

Yet Lambert, the joint-top English scorer in the Premier League last term, has his critics, some even saying his battering ram style is too rudimentary for the international stage.

"The standard is frightening, everything about it is a step up from what I am used to, but it's something I want to do again," Lambert said.

"To be a regular is my goal. I am trying to get in here again, do well, impress and hopefully get another chance.

"I am trying to prove that I can play against whoever we are playing."