Uncapped striker Rickie Lambert admits he never gave up hope of playing for England even though at one point he was screwing lids on the top of beetroot jars for a living.
Lambert was named in Roy Hodgson’s side to face Scotland this Wednesday, and he trained with the rest of the squad earlier today for the first time.
The Southampton striker has worked his way up through the Football League in a remarkable rags to riches story which began 13 years ago after he was released by Blackpool having failed to impress during a two-year apprenticeship.
Lambert resorted to working in a beetroot factory near his home in Kirkby to fund his travel to Macclesfield, whom he was training with in an effort to maintain his fitness as he searched for a permanent contract.
The Silkmen decided to offer Lambert a contract and he repaid their faith in him by going on a scoring run that began his rise through the leagues. Further contracts with Stockport, Rochdale and Bristol Rovers came before he joined Southampton – then in League One – and his 15 goals last season in Saints’ return to the Premier League has seen him handed his international chance.
Lambert has tried his best to remain calm after training with the likes of Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Jack Wilshire, but he admits that he is finding it difficult to contain his excitement.
"I have tried to play it cool and act like I am in control, but inside I am really excited," a Lambert said this afternoon.
He kept telling himself he must never give up on his dreams, even at his lowest points.
"Never, even in the bad moments, was I ever going to give up," he admitted.
"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 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 call-up was made all the more special because it came on the same day as the birth of his third child. And despite the fairy-tale story, critics of Lambert still slammed his inclusion, claiming that his 6ft 1in frame was merely used to hold the ball up and labelled him nothing more than a “big donkey”
But the 31-year-old is ready to prove his doubters wrong and give himself the best chance of going to the 2014 World Cup by showing Hodgson what he can do on the big 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."Reuse content