Stockport County

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Rickie Lambert still breaks out into a wide-eyed grin at one particular memory from his brief, fairy-tale stint as an England footballer. “I think it was Switzerland,” he says, recalling what was a pressurised 2-0 Euro 2016 qualifying win in Basel shortly after the 2014 World Cup. “We were in a hotel, had a few drinks. We’d gone out. There was a river – I couldn’t believe how high the bridge was. We jumped off, one after the other. It was brilliant. Everyone was laughing their heads off. It was a really good bunch of lads.” Lambert’s anecdote serves as proof of two things. How not everything that happens behind closed doors with England immediately gets out. And that team spirit can be forged in many different ways. Rockery Rickie: Lambert poses for the photographers at Vale Do Lobo in 2014 Credit: PA It is why Lambert is convinced that England manager Gareth Southgate must pay no regard over the next six weeks to what outsiders might think and ensure a healthy balance is struck between work, rest and, yes, a little play. Lambert experienced the intensity of the England bubble at the 2014 World Cup and pinpoints boredom as a major challenge. “I absolutely loved it – the training, the whole build-up was excellent – and to be around the squad was amazing,” he says. “But it was a bit hard because quite a lot you were bored. You were stuck in the hotel and literally couldn’t go anywhere.” So, how did players fill what were long hours at their Rio de Janeiro base outside of the formal schedule? “Some might stay with the physios and masseurs to chat, others would be playing pool, table tennis or computer games. I thought I was decent at table tennis, but when I saw Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling, I thought, ‘maybe not’. You had different groups if you were bored or, if you wanted time alone, you could go to your bedroom. The boys in Rio: Rickie Lambert, Leighton Baines and Adam Lallana get some R and R. Credit: Splash News “It was a bit of a thing that you couldn’t go out. I was a bit gutted that I couldn’t see the lovely city. We went to America and Portugal before. That was brilliant. The attention wasn’t as fierce. We went to the beaches. We had our own days as well to do what we wanted. Those days really make the squad a lot closer and the more Gareth Southgate can do that the better. It is just going for a meal, maybe have a couple of drinks. Obviously, they can’t get p----- … but a couple of drinks. Just let your hair down now and again.” Lambert attributes his own rise to a transformation in off-field discipline and so would never advocate anything seriously detrimental to physical performance, but simply stresses that the World Cup environment is unique. “The amount of pressure the guys are under from the English media is fierce,” he says. “It’s nothing I had ever seen before so, to have your own time to relax, is definitely something the squad miss. It was very apparent from early on. It was unbelievable, incredible. I could see what it was doing to Roy [Hodgson]. It does seep through. England Formation Builder “The FA was very aware of what the papers were saying. I just thought, ‘Let it go, it doesn’t matter’. You just focus on the pitch. Eventually, a manager is going to have to say, ‘We are going to do what we want. I am going to get judged on what I do in the World Cup anyway. If a story gets out, it doesn’t matter’. If they do well in the World Cup, everyone will forget about it.” Lambert, though, still does not think the scrutiny impacted on performances and was not, ultimately, a reason for exiting the tournament after 2-1 defeats against Italy and Uruguay. “I thought we were going to do well; get past the group stages. I thought I could have been used more earlier. It was so disappointing the way it ended but, to play for England in the World Cup, was still the highlight of my career.” It was also the culmination of a truly inspirational story. From being released by Liverpool and Blackpool as a teenager to spending his summer working in a beetroot factory and playing at Macclesfield Town for only £50-a-week in travel expenses, Lambert found lift-off after joining Southampton in League One. He was 27 and had spent the previous seven seasons at Stockport County, Rochdale and Bristol Rovers. World Cup predictor “The old Rickie finished when Alan Pardew took hold of me,” he says. “It was about a month into the season. I was the leading goalscorer, but Pardew called me in.” Frank words were exchanged and, to the credit of both men, the impact was life-changing. “I was literally in the gym the next morning,” says Lambert. “Within two weeks, I could feel the difference. It became like a drug. I couldn’t get enough of the work. I started eating right, stopped the drinking and the fat just fell off. Before, after 70 minutes, I would start blowing. I would struggle to get to a ball in the channels and rarely make runs behind. I became more of an all-round player and could match people for fitness. I found my game so so easy after that.” Full and frank exchange of views: Alan Pardew in his Southampton role Credit: Getty Lambert believes that his background still worked to his advantage and, while stressing that the very elite would not benefit from grafting their way through the divisions, thinks that academy football can also stifle development. “I see kids in the Premier League [academies] playing the most fake football I have ever seen,” he says. “They are at that stage for two to three years. Their decline must be unbelievable. “I was under pressure to get three points from day one. I was in scary relegation fights, knowing if we got relegated from the Football League that half the club’s staff are sacked. Those moments helped. If I’d got to the top too early, I would not have been a success. I was physically and mentally ready.” Especially impressive was how Lambert’s development continued well into his 30s. Nigel Adkins and then Mauricio Pochettino built on Pardew’s work to oversee a progression that was sufficient for fans to recently vote him into the club’s all-time greatest team. Inspiration: then-Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino Credit: AP Pochettino’s public certainty through 2013 that Lambert could play for England was crucial both in boosting his confidence and also lending wider credibility to the idea. “Poch is the best manager I have come across,” says Lambert. “He pushed me to the limit and made me understand the game more. To see what he has done for Harry Kane does not surprise me. He’s got Kane at the right age. He would analyse everyone, pull you to one side, work on your weaknesses, teach you how to move differently. “The hardest shot in my eyes was the ball coming across onto my left foot. I used to open up and hit it with my right. He said, ‘Why don’t you hit it with your left?’ I replied, ‘I find it hard’. He then literally took me out and rolled the ball across. Shot after shot after shot. “When he first said that I could play for England, I was shocked but, as the goals kept going in, Poch kept talking and it got louder and louder. It is thanks to him that I got there.” Here's Rickie Lambert making it a dream debut! #engsco#Wembleypic.twitter.com/cSnUpBzXBe— Wembley Stadium (@wembleystadium) August 14, 2013 The call-up came on the day Lambert’s wife gave birth to their third child and, in keeping with this Roy of the Rovers rise, he then scored a Wembley winner with his first touch in international football. The World Cup and a return to boyhood club Liverpool followed with a year. “It was surreal,” he says. “I didn’t get much recognition and then, suddenly, everything clicked. It was like trying to ride the crest of a wave. #EFLAwards: Rickie Lambert to be honoured with the prestigious Sir Tom Finney Award this Sunday >> https://t.co/HBbnxIgqlppic.twitter.com/AwTV1nT2Qf— EFL (@EFL) April 14, 2018 “I only knew I was going to the World Cup an hour before it went public. I got a text with the travel arrangements. I replied saying, ‘Am I in the squad then?’ I knew Roy liked me but, for me, it was 50-50.” Lambert had gone from watching the 2010 World Cup in a New Forest beer garden to appearing himself on football’s greatest stage. Having retired last year and been presented in April with the Football League’s most prestigious individual honour – the Sir Tom Finney Lifetime Award – the circle will again turn this month. “I can’t wait,” says Lambert. “I’m a proud England fan and desperate to see them do well. I’ll be in a pub somewhere watching the games.” WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Rickie Lambert on life playing for England: 'we had a few drinks and jumped in a river' - exclusive interview
Rickie Lambert still breaks out into a wide-eyed grin at one particular memory from his brief, fairy-tale stint as an England footballer. “I think it was Switzerland,” he says, recalling what was a pressurised 2-0 Euro 2016 qualifying win in Basel shortly after the 2014 World Cup. “We were in a hotel, had a few drinks. We’d gone out. There was a river – I couldn’t believe how high the bridge was. We jumped off, one after the other. It was brilliant. Everyone was laughing their heads off. It was a really good bunch of lads.” Lambert’s anecdote serves as proof of two things. How not everything that happens behind closed doors with England immediately gets out. And that team spirit can be forged in many different ways. Rockery Rickie: Lambert poses for the photographers at Vale Do Lobo in 2014 Credit: PA It is why Lambert is convinced that England manager Gareth Southgate must pay no regard over the next six weeks to what outsiders might think and ensure a healthy balance is struck between work, rest and, yes, a little play. Lambert experienced the intensity of the England bubble at the 2014 World Cup and pinpoints boredom as a major challenge. “I absolutely loved it – the training, the whole build-up was excellent – and to be around the squad was amazing,” he says. “But it was a bit hard because quite a lot you were bored. You were stuck in the hotel and literally couldn’t go anywhere.” So, how did players fill what were long hours at their Rio de Janeiro base outside of the formal schedule? “Some might stay with the physios and masseurs to chat, others would be playing pool, table tennis or computer games. I thought I was decent at table tennis, but when I saw Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling, I thought, ‘maybe not’. You had different groups if you were bored or, if you wanted time alone, you could go to your bedroom. The boys in Rio: Rickie Lambert, Leighton Baines and Adam Lallana get some R and R. Credit: Splash News “It was a bit of a thing that you couldn’t go out. I was a bit gutted that I couldn’t see the lovely city. We went to America and Portugal before. That was brilliant. The attention wasn’t as fierce. We went to the beaches. We had our own days as well to do what we wanted. Those days really make the squad a lot closer and the more Gareth Southgate can do that the better. It is just going for a meal, maybe have a couple of drinks. Obviously, they can’t get p----- … but a couple of drinks. Just let your hair down now and again.” Lambert attributes his own rise to a transformation in off-field discipline and so would never advocate anything seriously detrimental to physical performance, but simply stresses that the World Cup environment is unique. “The amount of pressure the guys are under from the English media is fierce,” he says. “It’s nothing I had ever seen before so, to have your own time to relax, is definitely something the squad miss. It was very apparent from early on. It was unbelievable, incredible. I could see what it was doing to Roy [Hodgson]. It does seep through. England Formation Builder “The FA was very aware of what the papers were saying. I just thought, ‘Let it go, it doesn’t matter’. You just focus on the pitch. Eventually, a manager is going to have to say, ‘We are going to do what we want. I am going to get judged on what I do in the World Cup anyway. If a story gets out, it doesn’t matter’. If they do well in the World Cup, everyone will forget about it.” Lambert, though, still does not think the scrutiny impacted on performances and was not, ultimately, a reason for exiting the tournament after 2-1 defeats against Italy and Uruguay. “I thought we were going to do well; get past the group stages. I thought I could have been used more earlier. It was so disappointing the way it ended but, to play for England in the World Cup, was still the highlight of my career.” It was also the culmination of a truly inspirational story. From being released by Liverpool and Blackpool as a teenager to spending his summer working in a beetroot factory and playing at Macclesfield Town for only £50-a-week in travel expenses, Lambert found lift-off after joining Southampton in League One. He was 27 and had spent the previous seven seasons at Stockport County, Rochdale and Bristol Rovers. World Cup predictor “The old Rickie finished when Alan Pardew took hold of me,” he says. “It was about a month into the season. I was the leading goalscorer, but Pardew called me in.” Frank words were exchanged and, to the credit of both men, the impact was life-changing. “I was literally in the gym the next morning,” says Lambert. “Within two weeks, I could feel the difference. It became like a drug. I couldn’t get enough of the work. I started eating right, stopped the drinking and the fat just fell off. Before, after 70 minutes, I would start blowing. I would struggle to get to a ball in the channels and rarely make runs behind. I became more of an all-round player and could match people for fitness. I found my game so so easy after that.” Full and frank exchange of views: Alan Pardew in his Southampton role Credit: Getty Lambert believes that his background still worked to his advantage and, while stressing that the very elite would not benefit from grafting their way through the divisions, thinks that academy football can also stifle development. “I see kids in the Premier League [academies] playing the most fake football I have ever seen,” he says. “They are at that stage for two to three years. Their decline must be unbelievable. “I was under pressure to get three points from day one. I was in scary relegation fights, knowing if we got relegated from the Football League that half the club’s staff are sacked. Those moments helped. If I’d got to the top too early, I would not have been a success. I was physically and mentally ready.” Especially impressive was how Lambert’s development continued well into his 30s. Nigel Adkins and then Mauricio Pochettino built on Pardew’s work to oversee a progression that was sufficient for fans to recently vote him into the club’s all-time greatest team. Inspiration: then-Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino Credit: AP Pochettino’s public certainty through 2013 that Lambert could play for England was crucial both in boosting his confidence and also lending wider credibility to the idea. “Poch is the best manager I have come across,” says Lambert. “He pushed me to the limit and made me understand the game more. To see what he has done for Harry Kane does not surprise me. He’s got Kane at the right age. He would analyse everyone, pull you to one side, work on your weaknesses, teach you how to move differently. “The hardest shot in my eyes was the ball coming across onto my left foot. I used to open up and hit it with my right. He said, ‘Why don’t you hit it with your left?’ I replied, ‘I find it hard’. He then literally took me out and rolled the ball across. Shot after shot after shot. “When he first said that I could play for England, I was shocked but, as the goals kept going in, Poch kept talking and it got louder and louder. It is thanks to him that I got there.” Here's Rickie Lambert making it a dream debut! #engsco#Wembleypic.twitter.com/cSnUpBzXBe— Wembley Stadium (@wembleystadium) August 14, 2013 The call-up came on the day Lambert’s wife gave birth to their third child and, in keeping with this Roy of the Rovers rise, he then scored a Wembley winner with his first touch in international football. The World Cup and a return to boyhood club Liverpool followed with a year. “It was surreal,” he says. “I didn’t get much recognition and then, suddenly, everything clicked. It was like trying to ride the crest of a wave. #EFLAwards: Rickie Lambert to be honoured with the prestigious Sir Tom Finney Award this Sunday >> https://t.co/HBbnxIgqlppic.twitter.com/AwTV1nT2Qf— EFL (@EFL) April 14, 2018 “I only knew I was going to the World Cup an hour before it went public. I got a text with the travel arrangements. I replied saying, ‘Am I in the squad then?’ I knew Roy liked me but, for me, it was 50-50.” Lambert had gone from watching the 2010 World Cup in a New Forest beer garden to appearing himself on football’s greatest stage. Having retired last year and been presented in April with the Football League’s most prestigious individual honour – the Sir Tom Finney Lifetime Award – the circle will again turn this month. “I can’t wait,” says Lambert. “I’m a proud England fan and desperate to see them do well. I’ll be in a pub somewhere watching the games.” WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Rickie Lambert still breaks out into a wide-eyed grin at one particular memory from his brief, fairy-tale stint as an England footballer. “I think it was Switzerland,” he says, recalling what was a pressurised 2-0 Euro 2016 qualifying win in Basel shortly after the 2014 World Cup. “We were in a hotel, had a few drinks. We’d gone out. There was a river – I couldn’t believe how high the bridge was. We jumped off, one after the other. It was brilliant. Everyone was laughing their heads off. It was a really good bunch of lads.” Lambert’s anecdote serves as proof of two things. How not everything that happens behind closed doors with England immediately gets out. And that team spirit can be forged in many different ways. Rockery Rickie: Lambert poses for the photographers at Vale Do Lobo in 2014 Credit: PA It is why Lambert is convinced that England manager Gareth Southgate must pay no regard over the next six weeks to what outsiders might think and ensure a healthy balance is struck between work, rest and, yes, a little play. Lambert experienced the intensity of the England bubble at the 2014 World Cup and pinpoints boredom as a major challenge. “I absolutely loved it – the training, the whole build-up was excellent – and to be around the squad was amazing,” he says. “But it was a bit hard because quite a lot you were bored. You were stuck in the hotel and literally couldn’t go anywhere.” So, how did players fill what were long hours at their Rio de Janeiro base outside of the formal schedule? “Some might stay with the physios and masseurs to chat, others would be playing pool, table tennis or computer games. I thought I was decent at table tennis, but when I saw Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling, I thought, ‘maybe not’. You had different groups if you were bored or, if you wanted time alone, you could go to your bedroom. The boys in Rio: Rickie Lambert, Leighton Baines and Adam Lallana get some R and R. Credit: Splash News “It was a bit of a thing that you couldn’t go out. I was a bit gutted that I couldn’t see the lovely city. We went to America and Portugal before. That was brilliant. The attention wasn’t as fierce. We went to the beaches. We had our own days as well to do what we wanted. Those days really make the squad a lot closer and the more Gareth Southgate can do that the better. It is just going for a meal, maybe have a couple of drinks. Obviously, they can’t get p----- … but a couple of drinks. Just let your hair down now and again.” Lambert attributes his own rise to a transformation in off-field discipline and so would never advocate anything seriously detrimental to physical performance, but simply stresses that the World Cup environment is unique. “The amount of pressure the guys are under from the English media is fierce,” he says. “It’s nothing I had ever seen before so, to have your own time to relax, is definitely something the squad miss. It was very apparent from early on. It was unbelievable, incredible. I could see what it was doing to Roy [Hodgson]. It does seep through. England Formation Builder “The FA was very aware of what the papers were saying. I just thought, ‘Let it go, it doesn’t matter’. You just focus on the pitch. Eventually, a manager is going to have to say, ‘We are going to do what we want. I am going to get judged on what I do in the World Cup anyway. If a story gets out, it doesn’t matter’. If they do well in the World Cup, everyone will forget about it.” Lambert, though, still does not think the scrutiny impacted on performances and was not, ultimately, a reason for exiting the tournament after 2-1 defeats against Italy and Uruguay. “I thought we were going to do well; get past the group stages. I thought I could have been used more earlier. It was so disappointing the way it ended but, to play for England in the World Cup, was still the highlight of my career.” It was also the culmination of a truly inspirational story. From being released by Liverpool and Blackpool as a teenager to spending his summer working in a beetroot factory and playing at Macclesfield Town for only £50-a-week in travel expenses, Lambert found lift-off after joining Southampton in League One. He was 27 and had spent the previous seven seasons at Stockport County, Rochdale and Bristol Rovers. World Cup predictor “The old Rickie finished when Alan Pardew took hold of me,” he says. “It was about a month into the season. I was the leading goalscorer, but Pardew called me in.” Frank words were exchanged and, to the credit of both men, the impact was life-changing. “I was literally in the gym the next morning,” says Lambert. “Within two weeks, I could feel the difference. It became like a drug. I couldn’t get enough of the work. I started eating right, stopped the drinking and the fat just fell off. Before, after 70 minutes, I would start blowing. I would struggle to get to a ball in the channels and rarely make runs behind. I became more of an all-round player and could match people for fitness. I found my game so so easy after that.” Full and frank exchange of views: Alan Pardew in his Southampton role Credit: Getty Lambert believes that his background still worked to his advantage and, while stressing that the very elite would not benefit from grafting their way through the divisions, thinks that academy football can also stifle development. “I see kids in the Premier League [academies] playing the most fake football I have ever seen,” he says. “They are at that stage for two to three years. Their decline must be unbelievable. “I was under pressure to get three points from day one. I was in scary relegation fights, knowing if we got relegated from the Football League that half the club’s staff are sacked. Those moments helped. If I’d got to the top too early, I would not have been a success. I was physically and mentally ready.” Especially impressive was how Lambert’s development continued well into his 30s. Nigel Adkins and then Mauricio Pochettino built on Pardew’s work to oversee a progression that was sufficient for fans to recently vote him into the club’s all-time greatest team. Inspiration: then-Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino Credit: AP Pochettino’s public certainty through 2013 that Lambert could play for England was crucial both in boosting his confidence and also lending wider credibility to the idea. “Poch is the best manager I have come across,” says Lambert. “He pushed me to the limit and made me understand the game more. To see what he has done for Harry Kane does not surprise me. He’s got Kane at the right age. He would analyse everyone, pull you to one side, work on your weaknesses, teach you how to move differently. “The hardest shot in my eyes was the ball coming across onto my left foot. I used to open up and hit it with my right. He said, ‘Why don’t you hit it with your left?’ I replied, ‘I find it hard’. He then literally took me out and rolled the ball across. Shot after shot after shot. “When he first said that I could play for England, I was shocked but, as the goals kept going in, Poch kept talking and it got louder and louder. It is thanks to him that I got there.” Here's Rickie Lambert making it a dream debut! #engsco#Wembleypic.twitter.com/cSnUpBzXBe— Wembley Stadium (@wembleystadium) August 14, 2013 The call-up came on the day Lambert’s wife gave birth to their third child and, in keeping with this Roy of the Rovers rise, he then scored a Wembley winner with his first touch in international football. The World Cup and a return to boyhood club Liverpool followed with a year. “It was surreal,” he says. “I didn’t get much recognition and then, suddenly, everything clicked. It was like trying to ride the crest of a wave. #EFLAwards: Rickie Lambert to be honoured with the prestigious Sir Tom Finney Award this Sunday >> https://t.co/HBbnxIgqlppic.twitter.com/AwTV1nT2Qf— EFL (@EFL) April 14, 2018 “I only knew I was going to the World Cup an hour before it went public. I got a text with the travel arrangements. I replied saying, ‘Am I in the squad then?’ I knew Roy liked me but, for me, it was 50-50.” Lambert had gone from watching the 2010 World Cup in a New Forest beer garden to appearing himself on football’s greatest stage. Having retired last year and been presented in April with the Football League’s most prestigious individual honour – the Sir Tom Finney Lifetime Award – the circle will again turn this month. “I can’t wait,” says Lambert. “I’m a proud England fan and desperate to see them do well. I’ll be in a pub somewhere watching the games.” WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Rickie Lambert on life playing for England: 'we had a few drinks and jumped in a river' - exclusive interview
Rickie Lambert still breaks out into a wide-eyed grin at one particular memory from his brief, fairy-tale stint as an England footballer. “I think it was Switzerland,” he says, recalling what was a pressurised 2-0 Euro 2016 qualifying win in Basel shortly after the 2014 World Cup. “We were in a hotel, had a few drinks. We’d gone out. There was a river – I couldn’t believe how high the bridge was. We jumped off, one after the other. It was brilliant. Everyone was laughing their heads off. It was a really good bunch of lads.” Lambert’s anecdote serves as proof of two things. How not everything that happens behind closed doors with England immediately gets out. And that team spirit can be forged in many different ways. Rockery Rickie: Lambert poses for the photographers at Vale Do Lobo in 2014 Credit: PA It is why Lambert is convinced that England manager Gareth Southgate must pay no regard over the next six weeks to what outsiders might think and ensure a healthy balance is struck between work, rest and, yes, a little play. Lambert experienced the intensity of the England bubble at the 2014 World Cup and pinpoints boredom as a major challenge. “I absolutely loved it – the training, the whole build-up was excellent – and to be around the squad was amazing,” he says. “But it was a bit hard because quite a lot you were bored. You were stuck in the hotel and literally couldn’t go anywhere.” So, how did players fill what were long hours at their Rio de Janeiro base outside of the formal schedule? “Some might stay with the physios and masseurs to chat, others would be playing pool, table tennis or computer games. I thought I was decent at table tennis, but when I saw Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling, I thought, ‘maybe not’. You had different groups if you were bored or, if you wanted time alone, you could go to your bedroom. The boys in Rio: Rickie Lambert, Leighton Baines and Adam Lallana get some R and R. Credit: Splash News “It was a bit of a thing that you couldn’t go out. I was a bit gutted that I couldn’t see the lovely city. We went to America and Portugal before. That was brilliant. The attention wasn’t as fierce. We went to the beaches. We had our own days as well to do what we wanted. Those days really make the squad a lot closer and the more Gareth Southgate can do that the better. It is just going for a meal, maybe have a couple of drinks. Obviously, they can’t get p----- … but a couple of drinks. Just let your hair down now and again.” Lambert attributes his own rise to a transformation in off-field discipline and so would never advocate anything seriously detrimental to physical performance, but simply stresses that the World Cup environment is unique. “The amount of pressure the guys are under from the English media is fierce,” he says. “It’s nothing I had ever seen before so, to have your own time to relax, is definitely something the squad miss. It was very apparent from early on. It was unbelievable, incredible. I could see what it was doing to Roy [Hodgson]. It does seep through. England Formation Builder “The FA was very aware of what the papers were saying. I just thought, ‘Let it go, it doesn’t matter’. You just focus on the pitch. Eventually, a manager is going to have to say, ‘We are going to do what we want. I am going to get judged on what I do in the World Cup anyway. If a story gets out, it doesn’t matter’. If they do well in the World Cup, everyone will forget about it.” Lambert, though, still does not think the scrutiny impacted on performances and was not, ultimately, a reason for exiting the tournament after 2-1 defeats against Italy and Uruguay. “I thought we were going to do well; get past the group stages. I thought I could have been used more earlier. It was so disappointing the way it ended but, to play for England in the World Cup, was still the highlight of my career.” It was also the culmination of a truly inspirational story. From being released by Liverpool and Blackpool as a teenager to spending his summer working in a beetroot factory and playing at Macclesfield Town for only £50-a-week in travel expenses, Lambert found lift-off after joining Southampton in League One. He was 27 and had spent the previous seven seasons at Stockport County, Rochdale and Bristol Rovers. World Cup predictor “The old Rickie finished when Alan Pardew took hold of me,” he says. “It was about a month into the season. I was the leading goalscorer, but Pardew called me in.” Frank words were exchanged and, to the credit of both men, the impact was life-changing. “I was literally in the gym the next morning,” says Lambert. “Within two weeks, I could feel the difference. It became like a drug. I couldn’t get enough of the work. I started eating right, stopped the drinking and the fat just fell off. Before, after 70 minutes, I would start blowing. I would struggle to get to a ball in the channels and rarely make runs behind. I became more of an all-round player and could match people for fitness. I found my game so so easy after that.” Full and frank exchange of views: Alan Pardew in his Southampton role Credit: Getty Lambert believes that his background still worked to his advantage and, while stressing that the very elite would not benefit from grafting their way through the divisions, thinks that academy football can also stifle development. “I see kids in the Premier League [academies] playing the most fake football I have ever seen,” he says. “They are at that stage for two to three years. Their decline must be unbelievable. “I was under pressure to get three points from day one. I was in scary relegation fights, knowing if we got relegated from the Football League that half the club’s staff are sacked. Those moments helped. If I’d got to the top too early, I would not have been a success. I was physically and mentally ready.” Especially impressive was how Lambert’s development continued well into his 30s. Nigel Adkins and then Mauricio Pochettino built on Pardew’s work to oversee a progression that was sufficient for fans to recently vote him into the club’s all-time greatest team. Inspiration: then-Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino Credit: AP Pochettino’s public certainty through 2013 that Lambert could play for England was crucial both in boosting his confidence and also lending wider credibility to the idea. “Poch is the best manager I have come across,” says Lambert. “He pushed me to the limit and made me understand the game more. To see what he has done for Harry Kane does not surprise me. He’s got Kane at the right age. He would analyse everyone, pull you to one side, work on your weaknesses, teach you how to move differently. “The hardest shot in my eyes was the ball coming across onto my left foot. I used to open up and hit it with my right. He said, ‘Why don’t you hit it with your left?’ I replied, ‘I find it hard’. He then literally took me out and rolled the ball across. Shot after shot after shot. “When he first said that I could play for England, I was shocked but, as the goals kept going in, Poch kept talking and it got louder and louder. It is thanks to him that I got there.” Here's Rickie Lambert making it a dream debut! #engsco#Wembleypic.twitter.com/cSnUpBzXBe— Wembley Stadium (@wembleystadium) August 14, 2013 The call-up came on the day Lambert’s wife gave birth to their third child and, in keeping with this Roy of the Rovers rise, he then scored a Wembley winner with his first touch in international football. The World Cup and a return to boyhood club Liverpool followed with a year. “It was surreal,” he says. “I didn’t get much recognition and then, suddenly, everything clicked. It was like trying to ride the crest of a wave. #EFLAwards: Rickie Lambert to be honoured with the prestigious Sir Tom Finney Award this Sunday >> https://t.co/HBbnxIgqlppic.twitter.com/AwTV1nT2Qf— EFL (@EFL) April 14, 2018 “I only knew I was going to the World Cup an hour before it went public. I got a text with the travel arrangements. I replied saying, ‘Am I in the squad then?’ I knew Roy liked me but, for me, it was 50-50.” Lambert had gone from watching the 2010 World Cup in a New Forest beer garden to appearing himself on football’s greatest stage. Having retired last year and been presented in April with the Football League’s most prestigious individual honour – the Sir Tom Finney Lifetime Award – the circle will again turn this month. “I can’t wait,” says Lambert. “I’m a proud England fan and desperate to see them do well. I’ll be in a pub somewhere watching the games.” WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Rickie Lambert still breaks out into a wide-eyed grin at one particular memory from his brief, fairy-tale stint as an England footballer. “I think it was Switzerland,” he says, recalling what was a pressurised 2-0 Euro 2016 qualifying win in Basel shortly after the 2014 World Cup. “We were in a hotel, had a few drinks. We’d gone out. There was a river – I couldn’t believe how high the bridge was. We jumped off, one after the other. It was brilliant. Everyone was laughing their heads off. It was a really good bunch of lads.” Lambert’s anecdote serves as proof of two things. How not everything that happens behind closed doors with England immediately gets out. And that team spirit can be forged in many different ways. Rockery Rickie: Lambert poses for the photographers at Vale Do Lobo in 2014 Credit: PA It is why Lambert is convinced that England manager Gareth Southgate must pay no regard over the next six weeks to what outsiders might think and ensure a healthy balance is struck between work, rest and, yes, a little play. Lambert experienced the intensity of the England bubble at the 2014 World Cup and pinpoints boredom as a major challenge. “I absolutely loved it – the training, the whole build-up was excellent – and to be around the squad was amazing,” he says. “But it was a bit hard because quite a lot you were bored. You were stuck in the hotel and literally couldn’t go anywhere.” So, how did players fill what were long hours at their Rio de Janeiro base outside of the formal schedule? “Some might stay with the physios and masseurs to chat, others would be playing pool, table tennis or computer games. I thought I was decent at table tennis, but when I saw Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling, I thought, ‘maybe not’. You had different groups if you were bored or, if you wanted time alone, you could go to your bedroom. The boys in Rio: Rickie Lambert, Leighton Baines and Adam Lallana get some R and R. Credit: Splash News “It was a bit of a thing that you couldn’t go out. I was a bit gutted that I couldn’t see the lovely city. We went to America and Portugal before. That was brilliant. The attention wasn’t as fierce. We went to the beaches. We had our own days as well to do what we wanted. Those days really make the squad a lot closer and the more Gareth Southgate can do that the better. It is just going for a meal, maybe have a couple of drinks. Obviously, they can’t get p----- … but a couple of drinks. Just let your hair down now and again.” Lambert attributes his own rise to a transformation in off-field discipline and so would never advocate anything seriously detrimental to physical performance, but simply stresses that the World Cup environment is unique. “The amount of pressure the guys are under from the English media is fierce,” he says. “It’s nothing I had ever seen before so, to have your own time to relax, is definitely something the squad miss. It was very apparent from early on. It was unbelievable, incredible. I could see what it was doing to Roy [Hodgson]. It does seep through. England Formation Builder “The FA was very aware of what the papers were saying. I just thought, ‘Let it go, it doesn’t matter’. You just focus on the pitch. Eventually, a manager is going to have to say, ‘We are going to do what we want. I am going to get judged on what I do in the World Cup anyway. If a story gets out, it doesn’t matter’. If they do well in the World Cup, everyone will forget about it.” Lambert, though, still does not think the scrutiny impacted on performances and was not, ultimately, a reason for exiting the tournament after 2-1 defeats against Italy and Uruguay. “I thought we were going to do well; get past the group stages. I thought I could have been used more earlier. It was so disappointing the way it ended but, to play for England in the World Cup, was still the highlight of my career.” It was also the culmination of a truly inspirational story. From being released by Liverpool and Blackpool as a teenager to spending his summer working in a beetroot factory and playing at Macclesfield Town for only £50-a-week in travel expenses, Lambert found lift-off after joining Southampton in League One. He was 27 and had spent the previous seven seasons at Stockport County, Rochdale and Bristol Rovers. World Cup predictor “The old Rickie finished when Alan Pardew took hold of me,” he says. “It was about a month into the season. I was the leading goalscorer, but Pardew called me in.” Frank words were exchanged and, to the credit of both men, the impact was life-changing. “I was literally in the gym the next morning,” says Lambert. “Within two weeks, I could feel the difference. It became like a drug. I couldn’t get enough of the work. I started eating right, stopped the drinking and the fat just fell off. Before, after 70 minutes, I would start blowing. I would struggle to get to a ball in the channels and rarely make runs behind. I became more of an all-round player and could match people for fitness. I found my game so so easy after that.” Full and frank exchange of views: Alan Pardew in his Southampton role Credit: Getty Lambert believes that his background still worked to his advantage and, while stressing that the very elite would not benefit from grafting their way through the divisions, thinks that academy football can also stifle development. “I see kids in the Premier League [academies] playing the most fake football I have ever seen,” he says. “They are at that stage for two to three years. Their decline must be unbelievable. “I was under pressure to get three points from day one. I was in scary relegation fights, knowing if we got relegated from the Football League that half the club’s staff are sacked. Those moments helped. If I’d got to the top too early, I would not have been a success. I was physically and mentally ready.” Especially impressive was how Lambert’s development continued well into his 30s. Nigel Adkins and then Mauricio Pochettino built on Pardew’s work to oversee a progression that was sufficient for fans to recently vote him into the club’s all-time greatest team. Inspiration: then-Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino Credit: AP Pochettino’s public certainty through 2013 that Lambert could play for England was crucial both in boosting his confidence and also lending wider credibility to the idea. “Poch is the best manager I have come across,” says Lambert. “He pushed me to the limit and made me understand the game more. To see what he has done for Harry Kane does not surprise me. He’s got Kane at the right age. He would analyse everyone, pull you to one side, work on your weaknesses, teach you how to move differently. “The hardest shot in my eyes was the ball coming across onto my left foot. I used to open up and hit it with my right. He said, ‘Why don’t you hit it with your left?’ I replied, ‘I find it hard’. He then literally took me out and rolled the ball across. Shot after shot after shot. “When he first said that I could play for England, I was shocked but, as the goals kept going in, Poch kept talking and it got louder and louder. It is thanks to him that I got there.” Here's Rickie Lambert making it a dream debut! #engsco#Wembleypic.twitter.com/cSnUpBzXBe— Wembley Stadium (@wembleystadium) August 14, 2013 The call-up came on the day Lambert’s wife gave birth to their third child and, in keeping with this Roy of the Rovers rise, he then scored a Wembley winner with his first touch in international football. The World Cup and a return to boyhood club Liverpool followed with a year. “It was surreal,” he says. “I didn’t get much recognition and then, suddenly, everything clicked. It was like trying to ride the crest of a wave. #EFLAwards: Rickie Lambert to be honoured with the prestigious Sir Tom Finney Award this Sunday >> https://t.co/HBbnxIgqlppic.twitter.com/AwTV1nT2Qf— EFL (@EFL) April 14, 2018 “I only knew I was going to the World Cup an hour before it went public. I got a text with the travel arrangements. I replied saying, ‘Am I in the squad then?’ I knew Roy liked me but, for me, it was 50-50.” Lambert had gone from watching the 2010 World Cup in a New Forest beer garden to appearing himself on football’s greatest stage. Having retired last year and been presented in April with the Football League’s most prestigious individual honour – the Sir Tom Finney Lifetime Award – the circle will again turn this month. “I can’t wait,” says Lambert. “I’m a proud England fan and desperate to see them do well. I’ll be in a pub somewhere watching the games.” WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Rickie Lambert on life playing for England: 'we had a few drinks and jumped in a river' - exclusive interview
Rickie Lambert still breaks out into a wide-eyed grin at one particular memory from his brief, fairy-tale stint as an England footballer. “I think it was Switzerland,” he says, recalling what was a pressurised 2-0 Euro 2016 qualifying win in Basel shortly after the 2014 World Cup. “We were in a hotel, had a few drinks. We’d gone out. There was a river – I couldn’t believe how high the bridge was. We jumped off, one after the other. It was brilliant. Everyone was laughing their heads off. It was a really good bunch of lads.” Lambert’s anecdote serves as proof of two things. How not everything that happens behind closed doors with England immediately gets out. And that team spirit can be forged in many different ways. Rockery Rickie: Lambert poses for the photographers at Vale Do Lobo in 2014 Credit: PA It is why Lambert is convinced that England manager Gareth Southgate must pay no regard over the next six weeks to what outsiders might think and ensure a healthy balance is struck between work, rest and, yes, a little play. Lambert experienced the intensity of the England bubble at the 2014 World Cup and pinpoints boredom as a major challenge. “I absolutely loved it – the training, the whole build-up was excellent – and to be around the squad was amazing,” he says. “But it was a bit hard because quite a lot you were bored. You were stuck in the hotel and literally couldn’t go anywhere.” So, how did players fill what were long hours at their Rio de Janeiro base outside of the formal schedule? “Some might stay with the physios and masseurs to chat, others would be playing pool, table tennis or computer games. I thought I was decent at table tennis, but when I saw Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling, I thought, ‘maybe not’. You had different groups if you were bored or, if you wanted time alone, you could go to your bedroom. The boys in Rio: Rickie Lambert, Leighton Baines and Adam Lallana get some R and R. Credit: Splash News “It was a bit of a thing that you couldn’t go out. I was a bit gutted that I couldn’t see the lovely city. We went to America and Portugal before. That was brilliant. The attention wasn’t as fierce. We went to the beaches. We had our own days as well to do what we wanted. Those days really make the squad a lot closer and the more Gareth Southgate can do that the better. It is just going for a meal, maybe have a couple of drinks. Obviously, they can’t get p----- … but a couple of drinks. Just let your hair down now and again.” Lambert attributes his own rise to a transformation in off-field discipline and so would never advocate anything seriously detrimental to physical performance, but simply stresses that the World Cup environment is unique. “The amount of pressure the guys are under from the English media is fierce,” he says. “It’s nothing I had ever seen before so, to have your own time to relax, is definitely something the squad miss. It was very apparent from early on. It was unbelievable, incredible. I could see what it was doing to Roy [Hodgson]. It does seep through. England Formation Builder “The FA was very aware of what the papers were saying. I just thought, ‘Let it go, it doesn’t matter’. You just focus on the pitch. Eventually, a manager is going to have to say, ‘We are going to do what we want. I am going to get judged on what I do in the World Cup anyway. If a story gets out, it doesn’t matter’. If they do well in the World Cup, everyone will forget about it.” Lambert, though, still does not think the scrutiny impacted on performances and was not, ultimately, a reason for exiting the tournament after 2-1 defeats against Italy and Uruguay. “I thought we were going to do well; get past the group stages. I thought I could have been used more earlier. It was so disappointing the way it ended but, to play for England in the World Cup, was still the highlight of my career.” It was also the culmination of a truly inspirational story. From being released by Liverpool and Blackpool as a teenager to spending his summer working in a beetroot factory and playing at Macclesfield Town for only £50-a-week in travel expenses, Lambert found lift-off after joining Southampton in League One. He was 27 and had spent the previous seven seasons at Stockport County, Rochdale and Bristol Rovers. World Cup predictor “The old Rickie finished when Alan Pardew took hold of me,” he says. “It was about a month into the season. I was the leading goalscorer, but Pardew called me in.” Frank words were exchanged and, to the credit of both men, the impact was life-changing. “I was literally in the gym the next morning,” says Lambert. “Within two weeks, I could feel the difference. It became like a drug. I couldn’t get enough of the work. I started eating right, stopped the drinking and the fat just fell off. Before, after 70 minutes, I would start blowing. I would struggle to get to a ball in the channels and rarely make runs behind. I became more of an all-round player and could match people for fitness. I found my game so so easy after that.” Full and frank exchange of views: Alan Pardew in his Southampton role Credit: Getty Lambert believes that his background still worked to his advantage and, while stressing that the very elite would not benefit from grafting their way through the divisions, thinks that academy football can also stifle development. “I see kids in the Premier League [academies] playing the most fake football I have ever seen,” he says. “They are at that stage for two to three years. Their decline must be unbelievable. “I was under pressure to get three points from day one. I was in scary relegation fights, knowing if we got relegated from the Football League that half the club’s staff are sacked. Those moments helped. If I’d got to the top too early, I would not have been a success. I was physically and mentally ready.” Especially impressive was how Lambert’s development continued well into his 30s. Nigel Adkins and then Mauricio Pochettino built on Pardew’s work to oversee a progression that was sufficient for fans to recently vote him into the club’s all-time greatest team. Inspiration: then-Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino Credit: AP Pochettino’s public certainty through 2013 that Lambert could play for England was crucial both in boosting his confidence and also lending wider credibility to the idea. “Poch is the best manager I have come across,” says Lambert. “He pushed me to the limit and made me understand the game more. To see what he has done for Harry Kane does not surprise me. He’s got Kane at the right age. He would analyse everyone, pull you to one side, work on your weaknesses, teach you how to move differently. “The hardest shot in my eyes was the ball coming across onto my left foot. I used to open up and hit it with my right. He said, ‘Why don’t you hit it with your left?’ I replied, ‘I find it hard’. He then literally took me out and rolled the ball across. Shot after shot after shot. “When he first said that I could play for England, I was shocked but, as the goals kept going in, Poch kept talking and it got louder and louder. It is thanks to him that I got there.” Here's Rickie Lambert making it a dream debut! #engsco#Wembleypic.twitter.com/cSnUpBzXBe— Wembley Stadium (@wembleystadium) August 14, 2013 The call-up came on the day Lambert’s wife gave birth to their third child and, in keeping with this Roy of the Rovers rise, he then scored a Wembley winner with his first touch in international football. The World Cup and a return to boyhood club Liverpool followed with a year. “It was surreal,” he says. “I didn’t get much recognition and then, suddenly, everything clicked. It was like trying to ride the crest of a wave. #EFLAwards: Rickie Lambert to be honoured with the prestigious Sir Tom Finney Award this Sunday >> https://t.co/HBbnxIgqlppic.twitter.com/AwTV1nT2Qf— EFL (@EFL) April 14, 2018 “I only knew I was going to the World Cup an hour before it went public. I got a text with the travel arrangements. I replied saying, ‘Am I in the squad then?’ I knew Roy liked me but, for me, it was 50-50.” Lambert had gone from watching the 2010 World Cup in a New Forest beer garden to appearing himself on football’s greatest stage. Having retired last year and been presented in April with the Football League’s most prestigious individual honour – the Sir Tom Finney Lifetime Award – the circle will again turn this month. “I can’t wait,” says Lambert. “I’m a proud England fan and desperate to see them do well. I’ll be in a pub somewhere watching the games.” WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Rickie Lambert still breaks out into a wide-eyed grin at one particular memory from his brief, fairy-tale stint as an England footballer. “I think it was Switzerland,” he says, recalling what was a pressurised 2-0 Euro 2016 qualifying win in Basel shortly after the 2014 World Cup. “We were in a hotel, had a few drinks. We’d gone out. There was a river – I couldn’t believe how high the bridge was. We jumped off, one after the other. It was brilliant. Everyone was laughing their heads off. It was a really good bunch of lads.” Lambert’s anecdote serves as proof of two things. How not everything that happens behind closed doors with England immediately gets out. And that team spirit can be forged in many different ways. Rockery Rickie: Lambert poses for the photographers at Vale Do Lobo in 2014 Credit: PA It is why Lambert is convinced that England manager Gareth Southgate must pay no regard over the next six weeks to what outsiders might think and ensure a healthy balance is struck between work, rest and, yes, a little play. Lambert experienced the intensity of the England bubble at the 2014 World Cup and pinpoints boredom as a major challenge. “I absolutely loved it – the training, the whole build-up was excellent – and to be around the squad was amazing,” he says. “But it was a bit hard because quite a lot you were bored. You were stuck in the hotel and literally couldn’t go anywhere.” So, how did players fill what were long hours at their Rio de Janeiro base outside of the formal schedule? “Some might stay with the physios and masseurs to chat, others would be playing pool, table tennis or computer games. I thought I was decent at table tennis, but when I saw Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling, I thought, ‘maybe not’. You had different groups if you were bored or, if you wanted time alone, you could go to your bedroom. The boys in Rio: Rickie Lambert, Leighton Baines and Adam Lallana get some R and R. Credit: Splash News “It was a bit of a thing that you couldn’t go out. I was a bit gutted that I couldn’t see the lovely city. We went to America and Portugal before. That was brilliant. The attention wasn’t as fierce. We went to the beaches. We had our own days as well to do what we wanted. Those days really make the squad a lot closer and the more Gareth Southgate can do that the better. It is just going for a meal, maybe have a couple of drinks. Obviously, they can’t get p----- … but a couple of drinks. Just let your hair down now and again.” Lambert attributes his own rise to a transformation in off-field discipline and so would never advocate anything seriously detrimental to physical performance, but simply stresses that the World Cup environment is unique. “The amount of pressure the guys are under from the English media is fierce,” he says. “It’s nothing I had ever seen before so, to have your own time to relax, is definitely something the squad miss. It was very apparent from early on. It was unbelievable, incredible. I could see what it was doing to Roy [Hodgson]. It does seep through. England Formation Builder “The FA was very aware of what the papers were saying. I just thought, ‘Let it go, it doesn’t matter’. You just focus on the pitch. Eventually, a manager is going to have to say, ‘We are going to do what we want. I am going to get judged on what I do in the World Cup anyway. If a story gets out, it doesn’t matter’. If they do well in the World Cup, everyone will forget about it.” Lambert, though, still does not think the scrutiny impacted on performances and was not, ultimately, a reason for exiting the tournament after 2-1 defeats against Italy and Uruguay. “I thought we were going to do well; get past the group stages. I thought I could have been used more earlier. It was so disappointing the way it ended but, to play for England in the World Cup, was still the highlight of my career.” It was also the culmination of a truly inspirational story. From being released by Liverpool and Blackpool as a teenager to spending his summer working in a beetroot factory and playing at Macclesfield Town for only £50-a-week in travel expenses, Lambert found lift-off after joining Southampton in League One. He was 27 and had spent the previous seven seasons at Stockport County, Rochdale and Bristol Rovers. World Cup predictor “The old Rickie finished when Alan Pardew took hold of me,” he says. “It was about a month into the season. I was the leading goalscorer, but Pardew called me in.” Frank words were exchanged and, to the credit of both men, the impact was life-changing. “I was literally in the gym the next morning,” says Lambert. “Within two weeks, I could feel the difference. It became like a drug. I couldn’t get enough of the work. I started eating right, stopped the drinking and the fat just fell off. Before, after 70 minutes, I would start blowing. I would struggle to get to a ball in the channels and rarely make runs behind. I became more of an all-round player and could match people for fitness. I found my game so so easy after that.” Full and frank exchange of views: Alan Pardew in his Southampton role Credit: Getty Lambert believes that his background still worked to his advantage and, while stressing that the very elite would not benefit from grafting their way through the divisions, thinks that academy football can also stifle development. “I see kids in the Premier League [academies] playing the most fake football I have ever seen,” he says. “They are at that stage for two to three years. Their decline must be unbelievable. “I was under pressure to get three points from day one. I was in scary relegation fights, knowing if we got relegated from the Football League that half the club’s staff are sacked. Those moments helped. If I’d got to the top too early, I would not have been a success. I was physically and mentally ready.” Especially impressive was how Lambert’s development continued well into his 30s. Nigel Adkins and then Mauricio Pochettino built on Pardew’s work to oversee a progression that was sufficient for fans to recently vote him into the club’s all-time greatest team. Inspiration: then-Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino Credit: AP Pochettino’s public certainty through 2013 that Lambert could play for England was crucial both in boosting his confidence and also lending wider credibility to the idea. “Poch is the best manager I have come across,” says Lambert. “He pushed me to the limit and made me understand the game more. To see what he has done for Harry Kane does not surprise me. He’s got Kane at the right age. He would analyse everyone, pull you to one side, work on your weaknesses, teach you how to move differently. “The hardest shot in my eyes was the ball coming across onto my left foot. I used to open up and hit it with my right. He said, ‘Why don’t you hit it with your left?’ I replied, ‘I find it hard’. He then literally took me out and rolled the ball across. Shot after shot after shot. “When he first said that I could play for England, I was shocked but, as the goals kept going in, Poch kept talking and it got louder and louder. It is thanks to him that I got there.” Here's Rickie Lambert making it a dream debut! #engsco#Wembleypic.twitter.com/cSnUpBzXBe— Wembley Stadium (@wembleystadium) August 14, 2013 The call-up came on the day Lambert’s wife gave birth to their third child and, in keeping with this Roy of the Rovers rise, he then scored a Wembley winner with his first touch in international football. The World Cup and a return to boyhood club Liverpool followed with a year. “It was surreal,” he says. “I didn’t get much recognition and then, suddenly, everything clicked. It was like trying to ride the crest of a wave. #EFLAwards: Rickie Lambert to be honoured with the prestigious Sir Tom Finney Award this Sunday >> https://t.co/HBbnxIgqlppic.twitter.com/AwTV1nT2Qf— EFL (@EFL) April 14, 2018 “I only knew I was going to the World Cup an hour before it went public. I got a text with the travel arrangements. I replied saying, ‘Am I in the squad then?’ I knew Roy liked me but, for me, it was 50-50.” Lambert had gone from watching the 2010 World Cup in a New Forest beer garden to appearing himself on football’s greatest stage. Having retired last year and been presented in April with the Football League’s most prestigious individual honour – the Sir Tom Finney Lifetime Award – the circle will again turn this month. “I can’t wait,” says Lambert. “I’m a proud England fan and desperate to see them do well. I’ll be in a pub somewhere watching the games.” WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Rickie Lambert on life playing for England: 'we had a few drinks and jumped in a river' - exclusive interview
Rickie Lambert still breaks out into a wide-eyed grin at one particular memory from his brief, fairy-tale stint as an England footballer. “I think it was Switzerland,” he says, recalling what was a pressurised 2-0 Euro 2016 qualifying win in Basel shortly after the 2014 World Cup. “We were in a hotel, had a few drinks. We’d gone out. There was a river – I couldn’t believe how high the bridge was. We jumped off, one after the other. It was brilliant. Everyone was laughing their heads off. It was a really good bunch of lads.” Lambert’s anecdote serves as proof of two things. How not everything that happens behind closed doors with England immediately gets out. And that team spirit can be forged in many different ways. Rockery Rickie: Lambert poses for the photographers at Vale Do Lobo in 2014 Credit: PA It is why Lambert is convinced that England manager Gareth Southgate must pay no regard over the next six weeks to what outsiders might think and ensure a healthy balance is struck between work, rest and, yes, a little play. Lambert experienced the intensity of the England bubble at the 2014 World Cup and pinpoints boredom as a major challenge. “I absolutely loved it – the training, the whole build-up was excellent – and to be around the squad was amazing,” he says. “But it was a bit hard because quite a lot you were bored. You were stuck in the hotel and literally couldn’t go anywhere.” So, how did players fill what were long hours at their Rio de Janeiro base outside of the formal schedule? “Some might stay with the physios and masseurs to chat, others would be playing pool, table tennis or computer games. I thought I was decent at table tennis, but when I saw Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling, I thought, ‘maybe not’. You had different groups if you were bored or, if you wanted time alone, you could go to your bedroom. The boys in Rio: Rickie Lambert, Leighton Baines and Adam Lallana get some R and R. Credit: Splash News “It was a bit of a thing that you couldn’t go out. I was a bit gutted that I couldn’t see the lovely city. We went to America and Portugal before. That was brilliant. The attention wasn’t as fierce. We went to the beaches. We had our own days as well to do what we wanted. Those days really make the squad a lot closer and the more Gareth Southgate can do that the better. It is just going for a meal, maybe have a couple of drinks. Obviously, they can’t get p----- … but a couple of drinks. Just let your hair down now and again.” Lambert attributes his own rise to a transformation in off-field discipline and so would never advocate anything seriously detrimental to physical performance, but simply stresses that the World Cup environment is unique. “The amount of pressure the guys are under from the English media is fierce,” he says. “It’s nothing I had ever seen before so, to have your own time to relax, is definitely something the squad miss. It was very apparent from early on. It was unbelievable, incredible. I could see what it was doing to Roy [Hodgson]. It does seep through. England Formation Builder “The FA was very aware of what the papers were saying. I just thought, ‘Let it go, it doesn’t matter’. You just focus on the pitch. Eventually, a manager is going to have to say, ‘We are going to do what we want. I am going to get judged on what I do in the World Cup anyway. If a story gets out, it doesn’t matter’. If they do well in the World Cup, everyone will forget about it.” Lambert, though, still does not think the scrutiny impacted on performances and was not, ultimately, a reason for exiting the tournament after 2-1 defeats against Italy and Uruguay. “I thought we were going to do well; get past the group stages. I thought I could have been used more earlier. It was so disappointing the way it ended but, to play for England in the World Cup, was still the highlight of my career.” It was also the culmination of a truly inspirational story. From being released by Liverpool and Blackpool as a teenager to spending his summer working in a beetroot factory and playing at Macclesfield Town for only £50-a-week in travel expenses, Lambert found lift-off after joining Southampton in League One. He was 27 and had spent the previous seven seasons at Stockport County, Rochdale and Bristol Rovers. World Cup predictor “The old Rickie finished when Alan Pardew took hold of me,” he says. “It was about a month into the season. I was the leading goalscorer, but Pardew called me in.” Frank words were exchanged and, to the credit of both men, the impact was life-changing. “I was literally in the gym the next morning,” says Lambert. “Within two weeks, I could feel the difference. It became like a drug. I couldn’t get enough of the work. I started eating right, stopped the drinking and the fat just fell off. Before, after 70 minutes, I would start blowing. I would struggle to get to a ball in the channels and rarely make runs behind. I became more of an all-round player and could match people for fitness. I found my game so so easy after that.” Full and frank exchange of views: Alan Pardew in his Southampton role Credit: Getty Lambert believes that his background still worked to his advantage and, while stressing that the very elite would not benefit from grafting their way through the divisions, thinks that academy football can also stifle development. “I see kids in the Premier League [academies] playing the most fake football I have ever seen,” he says. “They are at that stage for two to three years. Their decline must be unbelievable. “I was under pressure to get three points from day one. I was in scary relegation fights, knowing if we got relegated from the Football League that half the club’s staff are sacked. Those moments helped. If I’d got to the top too early, I would not have been a success. I was physically and mentally ready.” Especially impressive was how Lambert’s development continued well into his 30s. Nigel Adkins and then Mauricio Pochettino built on Pardew’s work to oversee a progression that was sufficient for fans to recently vote him into the club’s all-time greatest team. Inspiration: then-Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino Credit: AP Pochettino’s public certainty through 2013 that Lambert could play for England was crucial both in boosting his confidence and also lending wider credibility to the idea. “Poch is the best manager I have come across,” says Lambert. “He pushed me to the limit and made me understand the game more. To see what he has done for Harry Kane does not surprise me. He’s got Kane at the right age. He would analyse everyone, pull you to one side, work on your weaknesses, teach you how to move differently. “The hardest shot in my eyes was the ball coming across onto my left foot. I used to open up and hit it with my right. He said, ‘Why don’t you hit it with your left?’ I replied, ‘I find it hard’. He then literally took me out and rolled the ball across. Shot after shot after shot. “When he first said that I could play for England, I was shocked but, as the goals kept going in, Poch kept talking and it got louder and louder. It is thanks to him that I got there.” Here's Rickie Lambert making it a dream debut! #engsco#Wembleypic.twitter.com/cSnUpBzXBe— Wembley Stadium (@wembleystadium) August 14, 2013 The call-up came on the day Lambert’s wife gave birth to their third child and, in keeping with this Roy of the Rovers rise, he then scored a Wembley winner with his first touch in international football. The World Cup and a return to boyhood club Liverpool followed with a year. “It was surreal,” he says. “I didn’t get much recognition and then, suddenly, everything clicked. It was like trying to ride the crest of a wave. #EFLAwards: Rickie Lambert to be honoured with the prestigious Sir Tom Finney Award this Sunday >> https://t.co/HBbnxIgqlppic.twitter.com/AwTV1nT2Qf— EFL (@EFL) April 14, 2018 “I only knew I was going to the World Cup an hour before it went public. I got a text with the travel arrangements. I replied saying, ‘Am I in the squad then?’ I knew Roy liked me but, for me, it was 50-50.” Lambert had gone from watching the 2010 World Cup in a New Forest beer garden to appearing himself on football’s greatest stage. Having retired last year and been presented in April with the Football League’s most prestigious individual honour – the Sir Tom Finney Lifetime Award – the circle will again turn this month. “I can’t wait,” says Lambert. “I’m a proud England fan and desperate to see them do well. I’ll be in a pub somewhere watching the games.” WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Rickie Lambert still breaks out into a wide-eyed grin at one particular memory from his brief, fairy-tale stint as an England footballer. “I think it was Switzerland,” he says, recalling what was a pressurised 2-0 Euro 2016 qualifying win in Basel shortly after the 2014 World Cup. “We were in a hotel, had a few drinks. We’d gone out. There was a river – I couldn’t believe how high the bridge was. We jumped off, one after the other. It was brilliant. Everyone was laughing their heads off. It was a really good bunch of lads.” Lambert’s anecdote serves as proof of two things. How not everything that happens behind closed doors with England immediately gets out. And that team spirit can be forged in many different ways. Rockery Rickie: Lambert poses for the photographers at Vale Do Lobo in 2014 Credit: PA It is why Lambert is convinced that England manager Gareth Southgate must pay no regard over the next six weeks to what outsiders might think and ensure a healthy balance is struck between work, rest and, yes, a little play. Lambert experienced the intensity of the England bubble at the 2014 World Cup and pinpoints boredom as a major challenge. “I absolutely loved it – the training, the whole build-up was excellent – and to be around the squad was amazing,” he says. “But it was a bit hard because quite a lot you were bored. You were stuck in the hotel and literally couldn’t go anywhere.” So, how did players fill what were long hours at their Rio de Janeiro base outside of the formal schedule? “Some might stay with the physios and masseurs to chat, others would be playing pool, table tennis or computer games. I thought I was decent at table tennis, but when I saw Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling, I thought, ‘maybe not’. You had different groups if you were bored or, if you wanted time alone, you could go to your bedroom. The boys in Rio: Rickie Lambert, Leighton Baines and Adam Lallana get some R and R. Credit: Splash News “It was a bit of a thing that you couldn’t go out. I was a bit gutted that I couldn’t see the lovely city. We went to America and Portugal before. That was brilliant. The attention wasn’t as fierce. We went to the beaches. We had our own days as well to do what we wanted. Those days really make the squad a lot closer and the more Gareth Southgate can do that the better. It is just going for a meal, maybe have a couple of drinks. Obviously, they can’t get p----- … but a couple of drinks. Just let your hair down now and again.” Lambert attributes his own rise to a transformation in off-field discipline and so would never advocate anything seriously detrimental to physical performance, but simply stresses that the World Cup environment is unique. “The amount of pressure the guys are under from the English media is fierce,” he says. “It’s nothing I had ever seen before so, to have your own time to relax, is definitely something the squad miss. It was very apparent from early on. It was unbelievable, incredible. I could see what it was doing to Roy [Hodgson]. It does seep through. England Formation Builder “The FA was very aware of what the papers were saying. I just thought, ‘Let it go, it doesn’t matter’. You just focus on the pitch. Eventually, a manager is going to have to say, ‘We are going to do what we want. I am going to get judged on what I do in the World Cup anyway. If a story gets out, it doesn’t matter’. If they do well in the World Cup, everyone will forget about it.” Lambert, though, still does not think the scrutiny impacted on performances and was not, ultimately, a reason for exiting the tournament after 2-1 defeats against Italy and Uruguay. “I thought we were going to do well; get past the group stages. I thought I could have been used more earlier. It was so disappointing the way it ended but, to play for England in the World Cup, was still the highlight of my career.” It was also the culmination of a truly inspirational story. From being released by Liverpool and Blackpool as a teenager to spending his summer working in a beetroot factory and playing at Macclesfield Town for only £50-a-week in travel expenses, Lambert found lift-off after joining Southampton in League One. He was 27 and had spent the previous seven seasons at Stockport County, Rochdale and Bristol Rovers. World Cup predictor “The old Rickie finished when Alan Pardew took hold of me,” he says. “It was about a month into the season. I was the leading goalscorer, but Pardew called me in.” Frank words were exchanged and, to the credit of both men, the impact was life-changing. “I was literally in the gym the next morning,” says Lambert. “Within two weeks, I could feel the difference. It became like a drug. I couldn’t get enough of the work. I started eating right, stopped the drinking and the fat just fell off. Before, after 70 minutes, I would start blowing. I would struggle to get to a ball in the channels and rarely make runs behind. I became more of an all-round player and could match people for fitness. I found my game so so easy after that.” Full and frank exchange of views: Alan Pardew in his Southampton role Credit: Getty Lambert believes that his background still worked to his advantage and, while stressing that the very elite would not benefit from grafting their way through the divisions, thinks that academy football can also stifle development. “I see kids in the Premier League [academies] playing the most fake football I have ever seen,” he says. “They are at that stage for two to three years. Their decline must be unbelievable. “I was under pressure to get three points from day one. I was in scary relegation fights, knowing if we got relegated from the Football League that half the club’s staff are sacked. Those moments helped. If I’d got to the top too early, I would not have been a success. I was physically and mentally ready.” Especially impressive was how Lambert’s development continued well into his 30s. Nigel Adkins and then Mauricio Pochettino built on Pardew’s work to oversee a progression that was sufficient for fans to recently vote him into the club’s all-time greatest team. Inspiration: then-Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino Credit: AP Pochettino’s public certainty through 2013 that Lambert could play for England was crucial both in boosting his confidence and also lending wider credibility to the idea. “Poch is the best manager I have come across,” says Lambert. “He pushed me to the limit and made me understand the game more. To see what he has done for Harry Kane does not surprise me. He’s got Kane at the right age. He would analyse everyone, pull you to one side, work on your weaknesses, teach you how to move differently. “The hardest shot in my eyes was the ball coming across onto my left foot. I used to open up and hit it with my right. He said, ‘Why don’t you hit it with your left?’ I replied, ‘I find it hard’. He then literally took me out and rolled the ball across. Shot after shot after shot. “When he first said that I could play for England, I was shocked but, as the goals kept going in, Poch kept talking and it got louder and louder. It is thanks to him that I got there.” Here's Rickie Lambert making it a dream debut! #engsco#Wembleypic.twitter.com/cSnUpBzXBe— Wembley Stadium (@wembleystadium) August 14, 2013 The call-up came on the day Lambert’s wife gave birth to their third child and, in keeping with this Roy of the Rovers rise, he then scored a Wembley winner with his first touch in international football. The World Cup and a return to boyhood club Liverpool followed with a year. “It was surreal,” he says. “I didn’t get much recognition and then, suddenly, everything clicked. It was like trying to ride the crest of a wave. #EFLAwards: Rickie Lambert to be honoured with the prestigious Sir Tom Finney Award this Sunday >> https://t.co/HBbnxIgqlppic.twitter.com/AwTV1nT2Qf— EFL (@EFL) April 14, 2018 “I only knew I was going to the World Cup an hour before it went public. I got a text with the travel arrangements. I replied saying, ‘Am I in the squad then?’ I knew Roy liked me but, for me, it was 50-50.” Lambert had gone from watching the 2010 World Cup in a New Forest beer garden to appearing himself on football’s greatest stage. Having retired last year and been presented in April with the Football League’s most prestigious individual honour – the Sir Tom Finney Lifetime Award – the circle will again turn this month. “I can’t wait,” says Lambert. “I’m a proud England fan and desperate to see them do well. I’ll be in a pub somewhere watching the games.” WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Rickie Lambert on life playing for England: 'we had a few drinks and jumped in a river' - exclusive interview
Rickie Lambert still breaks out into a wide-eyed grin at one particular memory from his brief, fairy-tale stint as an England footballer. “I think it was Switzerland,” he says, recalling what was a pressurised 2-0 Euro 2016 qualifying win in Basel shortly after the 2014 World Cup. “We were in a hotel, had a few drinks. We’d gone out. There was a river – I couldn’t believe how high the bridge was. We jumped off, one after the other. It was brilliant. Everyone was laughing their heads off. It was a really good bunch of lads.” Lambert’s anecdote serves as proof of two things. How not everything that happens behind closed doors with England immediately gets out. And that team spirit can be forged in many different ways. Rockery Rickie: Lambert poses for the photographers at Vale Do Lobo in 2014 Credit: PA It is why Lambert is convinced that England manager Gareth Southgate must pay no regard over the next six weeks to what outsiders might think and ensure a healthy balance is struck between work, rest and, yes, a little play. Lambert experienced the intensity of the England bubble at the 2014 World Cup and pinpoints boredom as a major challenge. “I absolutely loved it – the training, the whole build-up was excellent – and to be around the squad was amazing,” he says. “But it was a bit hard because quite a lot you were bored. You were stuck in the hotel and literally couldn’t go anywhere.” So, how did players fill what were long hours at their Rio de Janeiro base outside of the formal schedule? “Some might stay with the physios and masseurs to chat, others would be playing pool, table tennis or computer games. I thought I was decent at table tennis, but when I saw Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling, I thought, ‘maybe not’. You had different groups if you were bored or, if you wanted time alone, you could go to your bedroom. The boys in Rio: Rickie Lambert, Leighton Baines and Adam Lallana get some R and R. Credit: Splash News “It was a bit of a thing that you couldn’t go out. I was a bit gutted that I couldn’t see the lovely city. We went to America and Portugal before. That was brilliant. The attention wasn’t as fierce. We went to the beaches. We had our own days as well to do what we wanted. Those days really make the squad a lot closer and the more Gareth Southgate can do that the better. It is just going for a meal, maybe have a couple of drinks. Obviously, they can’t get p----- … but a couple of drinks. Just let your hair down now and again.” Lambert attributes his own rise to a transformation in off-field discipline and so would never advocate anything seriously detrimental to physical performance, but simply stresses that the World Cup environment is unique. “The amount of pressure the guys are under from the English media is fierce,” he says. “It’s nothing I had ever seen before so, to have your own time to relax, is definitely something the squad miss. It was very apparent from early on. It was unbelievable, incredible. I could see what it was doing to Roy [Hodgson]. It does seep through. England Formation Builder “The FA was very aware of what the papers were saying. I just thought, ‘Let it go, it doesn’t matter’. You just focus on the pitch. Eventually, a manager is going to have to say, ‘We are going to do what we want. I am going to get judged on what I do in the World Cup anyway. If a story gets out, it doesn’t matter’. If they do well in the World Cup, everyone will forget about it.” Lambert, though, still does not think the scrutiny impacted on performances and was not, ultimately, a reason for exiting the tournament after 2-1 defeats against Italy and Uruguay. “I thought we were going to do well; get past the group stages. I thought I could have been used more earlier. It was so disappointing the way it ended but, to play for England in the World Cup, was still the highlight of my career.” It was also the culmination of a truly inspirational story. From being released by Liverpool and Blackpool as a teenager to spending his summer working in a beetroot factory and playing at Macclesfield Town for only £50-a-week in travel expenses, Lambert found lift-off after joining Southampton in League One. He was 27 and had spent the previous seven seasons at Stockport County, Rochdale and Bristol Rovers. World Cup predictor “The old Rickie finished when Alan Pardew took hold of me,” he says. “It was about a month into the season. I was the leading goalscorer, but Pardew called me in.” Frank words were exchanged and, to the credit of both men, the impact was life-changing. “I was literally in the gym the next morning,” says Lambert. “Within two weeks, I could feel the difference. It became like a drug. I couldn’t get enough of the work. I started eating right, stopped the drinking and the fat just fell off. Before, after 70 minutes, I would start blowing. I would struggle to get to a ball in the channels and rarely make runs behind. I became more of an all-round player and could match people for fitness. I found my game so so easy after that.” Full and frank exchange of views: Alan Pardew in his Southampton role Credit: Getty Lambert believes that his background still worked to his advantage and, while stressing that the very elite would not benefit from grafting their way through the divisions, thinks that academy football can also stifle development. “I see kids in the Premier League [academies] playing the most fake football I have ever seen,” he says. “They are at that stage for two to three years. Their decline must be unbelievable. “I was under pressure to get three points from day one. I was in scary relegation fights, knowing if we got relegated from the Football League that half the club’s staff are sacked. Those moments helped. If I’d got to the top too early, I would not have been a success. I was physically and mentally ready.” Especially impressive was how Lambert’s development continued well into his 30s. Nigel Adkins and then Mauricio Pochettino built on Pardew’s work to oversee a progression that was sufficient for fans to recently vote him into the club’s all-time greatest team. Inspiration: then-Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino Credit: AP Pochettino’s public certainty through 2013 that Lambert could play for England was crucial both in boosting his confidence and also lending wider credibility to the idea. “Poch is the best manager I have come across,” says Lambert. “He pushed me to the limit and made me understand the game more. To see what he has done for Harry Kane does not surprise me. He’s got Kane at the right age. He would analyse everyone, pull you to one side, work on your weaknesses, teach you how to move differently. “The hardest shot in my eyes was the ball coming across onto my left foot. I used to open up and hit it with my right. He said, ‘Why don’t you hit it with your left?’ I replied, ‘I find it hard’. He then literally took me out and rolled the ball across. Shot after shot after shot. “When he first said that I could play for England, I was shocked but, as the goals kept going in, Poch kept talking and it got louder and louder. It is thanks to him that I got there.” Here's Rickie Lambert making it a dream debut! #engsco#Wembleypic.twitter.com/cSnUpBzXBe— Wembley Stadium (@wembleystadium) August 14, 2013 The call-up came on the day Lambert’s wife gave birth to their third child and, in keeping with this Roy of the Rovers rise, he then scored a Wembley winner with his first touch in international football. The World Cup and a return to boyhood club Liverpool followed with a year. “It was surreal,” he says. “I didn’t get much recognition and then, suddenly, everything clicked. It was like trying to ride the crest of a wave. #EFLAwards: Rickie Lambert to be honoured with the prestigious Sir Tom Finney Award this Sunday >> https://t.co/HBbnxIgqlppic.twitter.com/AwTV1nT2Qf— EFL (@EFL) April 14, 2018 “I only knew I was going to the World Cup an hour before it went public. I got a text with the travel arrangements. I replied saying, ‘Am I in the squad then?’ I knew Roy liked me but, for me, it was 50-50.” Lambert had gone from watching the 2010 World Cup in a New Forest beer garden to appearing himself on football’s greatest stage. Having retired last year and been presented in April with the Football League’s most prestigious individual honour – the Sir Tom Finney Lifetime Award – the circle will again turn this month. “I can’t wait,” says Lambert. “I’m a proud England fan and desperate to see them do well. I’ll be in a pub somewhere watching the games.” WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Admired or adored? Respected or revered? Liked or loved? They are questions Manchester United fans have grappled with about Wayne Rooney, and as he prepares to return to Old Trafford on Sunday for the first time since leaving the club in the summer to re-join his boyhood idols Everton, it is a debate that will probably resurface in living rooms, cars, pub corners and the terraces. In some respects, it is strange opinion could be so polarised. Rooney was a driving force behind the most successful period in United’s history, when they overcame a purge on their own resources brought about by the Glazer family’s takeover - at the same time that Roman Abramovich’s largesse threatened to usher in an era of sustained Chelsea dominance - to claim three successive Premier League titles and the European Cup. And by the time he departed after 13 years, Rooney had eclipsed Sir Bobby Charlton as the club’s all-time top scorer, despite playing almost 200 fewer games. There is little doubt Rooney is greatly admired by the United faithful and it almost goes without saying that he will be afforded a warm reception. But cherished like Charlton? Worshipped like George Best? Immortalised like Eric Cantona? Eric Cantona is hero-worshipped by United fans Credit: GETTY IMAGES There were fans who scoffed this week at the idea of a statue being erected in Rooney’s honour at Old Trafford, while others were open to it, but iconic status remains a contentious topic. Did the threat to leave and flirtation with Manchester City in 2010 do lasting damage to his standing? Are Rooney’s Liverpool origins something Mancunians sub-consciously cannot fully get past? Did his decline in those final few seasons sour the memory for some? “What makes a universally-loved favourite is complicated,” says Barney Chilton, editor of the respected United fanzine, Red News. “I think there can be a haze in people’s memories. [Cristiano] Ronaldo, for example, drew criticism near the end despite his outstanding performances, which some erase from the memory.” Rene Meulensteen argues, quite forcibly, that adulation will come with the passage of time, once Rooney has hung up his boots, and that United fans will look back with awe at the way in which he was consistently willing to sacrifice personal accolades for the sake of the team, and not least Ronaldo. Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo formed a lethal partnership Credit: AFP “Wayne was a high achiever but first and foremost he was a team player – very selfless and very versatile,” said Meulensteen, United’s first-team coach for the final six years of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign. “I remember the season after Ronaldo left he played up front and scored a lot of goals. He was up there challenging for the golden boot but Wayne has never really chased any sole, personal glory. We know what Ronaldo did for United and we all know what he has become with Real Madrid, but Wayne was integral to what we did.” For all the goals and glory, does it matter that Rooney never really had one crowning, iconic moment at United that truly defined him? The overhead kick against Manchester City in 2011? Yes, but still not defining in the way Best and Munich survivor Charlton, say, had the 1968 European Cup final or Ole Gunnar Solkajer the Nou Camp in 1999; or Eric Cantona that goal in the FA Cup final against Liverpool to secure the double in 1996 or captain marvel Bryan Robson with Barcelona ’84; or Roy Keane dragging his team to victory over Juventus and into the Champions League final, despite knowing he would miss the biggest game of his life through suspension. “Timing definitely plays a part,” said Paddy Crerand, who was part of that victorious 1968 European Cup side. “I think Wayne has been a magnificent player for United and I think he’ll get a great reception. But he won’t be idolised anything like Best, Law, Charlton or Cantona. I remember a couple of days after Best had been released from his United contract, 8,000 fans turned up at Edgeley Park to watch him play for Stockport County! That’s adulation.” Jamie Carragher wonders if England was a complicating factor for Rooney in his relationship with United fans, in much the same way it was for Michael Owen at Liverpool, where he never attained the hero status at Liverpool that Robbie Fowler enjoyed. “When Rooney went to Man United at 18 he was already England’s biggest player on the back of Euro 2004 and every time he got injured, it was always a case of, ‘Is he going to be fit for the World Cup, is he going to be fit for this tournament?’” said Carragher, the former Liverpool and England defender. Rooney's England career “Michael Owen had only really had one season at Liverpool before the 1998 World Cup and it felt like he was England’s property and it used to irritate Liverpool fans. As soon as Rooney went to Old Trafford it felt like it was England’s player going to United, rather than Everton’s player, in some way. He’s never hid he’s a big Everton fan, he was England property when he came to United. Is that maybe something to do with it - that he’s never quite been United’s?” Speaking as a Liverpudlian, could Carragher say Steven Gerrard would have been held in the same esteem at Anfield had he hailed from Manchester? “No, I don’t think so,” he said. “I don’t think people will feel they would dislike him because of that at all but there’s no way they can feel the same as if it’s Paul Scholes or Ryan Giggs or Gary Neville who come from Manchester.” Wayne Rooney has returned to his boyhood club Credit: ACTION IMAGES Meulensteen believes the sheer variety of goals that Rooney scored, as much as the volume of them, will ultimately shape his legacy. “When you put all of Wayne’s moments together you are going to have a mouth-watering DVD of memories and sometimes people do need reminding,” he said. “Wayne has the biggest, richest variety of goals you can imagine.” Meulensteen might be right. The fall-outs and frustrations all feel rather immaterial when you recall the memory of Rooney berating a referee one second and then the next channelling all of his inner rage into clobbering a wondrous 25-yard volley into the top corner against Newcastle United. “I am in the minority of already treasuring what Rooney did for United,” Chilton says. “It is not a holier-than-thou perch, he did some regretful things, but I think sometimes we football obsessives forget that it’s the moments on the pitch that are cherished. It’s why the chants for Rooney never ceased at the game despite all the chatter about him away from it. Now he has departed people are no longer angry about any decline and the rows and are beginning to see just how good it was.”
Why does Wayne Rooney's iconic status at Man Utd remain such a contentious topic?
Admired or adored? Respected or revered? Liked or loved? They are questions Manchester United fans have grappled with about Wayne Rooney, and as he prepares to return to Old Trafford on Sunday for the first time since leaving the club in the summer to re-join his boyhood idols Everton, it is a debate that will probably resurface in living rooms, cars, pub corners and the terraces. In some respects, it is strange opinion could be so polarised. Rooney was a driving force behind the most successful period in United’s history, when they overcame a purge on their own resources brought about by the Glazer family’s takeover - at the same time that Roman Abramovich’s largesse threatened to usher in an era of sustained Chelsea dominance - to claim three successive Premier League titles and the European Cup. And by the time he departed after 13 years, Rooney had eclipsed Sir Bobby Charlton as the club’s all-time top scorer, despite playing almost 200 fewer games. There is little doubt Rooney is greatly admired by the United faithful and it almost goes without saying that he will be afforded a warm reception. But cherished like Charlton? Worshipped like George Best? Immortalised like Eric Cantona? Eric Cantona is hero-worshipped by United fans Credit: GETTY IMAGES There were fans who scoffed this week at the idea of a statue being erected in Rooney’s honour at Old Trafford, while others were open to it, but iconic status remains a contentious topic. Did the threat to leave and flirtation with Manchester City in 2010 do lasting damage to his standing? Are Rooney’s Liverpool origins something Mancunians sub-consciously cannot fully get past? Did his decline in those final few seasons sour the memory for some? “What makes a universally-loved favourite is complicated,” says Barney Chilton, editor of the respected United fanzine, Red News. “I think there can be a haze in people’s memories. [Cristiano] Ronaldo, for example, drew criticism near the end despite his outstanding performances, which some erase from the memory.” Rene Meulensteen argues, quite forcibly, that adulation will come with the passage of time, once Rooney has hung up his boots, and that United fans will look back with awe at the way in which he was consistently willing to sacrifice personal accolades for the sake of the team, and not least Ronaldo. Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo formed a lethal partnership Credit: AFP “Wayne was a high achiever but first and foremost he was a team player – very selfless and very versatile,” said Meulensteen, United’s first-team coach for the final six years of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign. “I remember the season after Ronaldo left he played up front and scored a lot of goals. He was up there challenging for the golden boot but Wayne has never really chased any sole, personal glory. We know what Ronaldo did for United and we all know what he has become with Real Madrid, but Wayne was integral to what we did.” For all the goals and glory, does it matter that Rooney never really had one crowning, iconic moment at United that truly defined him? The overhead kick against Manchester City in 2011? Yes, but still not defining in the way Best and Munich survivor Charlton, say, had the 1968 European Cup final or Ole Gunnar Solkajer the Nou Camp in 1999; or Eric Cantona that goal in the FA Cup final against Liverpool to secure the double in 1996 or captain marvel Bryan Robson with Barcelona ’84; or Roy Keane dragging his team to victory over Juventus and into the Champions League final, despite knowing he would miss the biggest game of his life through suspension. “Timing definitely plays a part,” said Paddy Crerand, who was part of that victorious 1968 European Cup side. “I think Wayne has been a magnificent player for United and I think he’ll get a great reception. But he won’t be idolised anything like Best, Law, Charlton or Cantona. I remember a couple of days after Best had been released from his United contract, 8,000 fans turned up at Edgeley Park to watch him play for Stockport County! That’s adulation.” Jamie Carragher wonders if England was a complicating factor for Rooney in his relationship with United fans, in much the same way it was for Michael Owen at Liverpool, where he never attained the hero status at Liverpool that Robbie Fowler enjoyed. “When Rooney went to Man United at 18 he was already England’s biggest player on the back of Euro 2004 and every time he got injured, it was always a case of, ‘Is he going to be fit for the World Cup, is he going to be fit for this tournament?’” said Carragher, the former Liverpool and England defender. Rooney's England career “Michael Owen had only really had one season at Liverpool before the 1998 World Cup and it felt like he was England’s property and it used to irritate Liverpool fans. As soon as Rooney went to Old Trafford it felt like it was England’s player going to United, rather than Everton’s player, in some way. He’s never hid he’s a big Everton fan, he was England property when he came to United. Is that maybe something to do with it - that he’s never quite been United’s?” Speaking as a Liverpudlian, could Carragher say Steven Gerrard would have been held in the same esteem at Anfield had he hailed from Manchester? “No, I don’t think so,” he said. “I don’t think people will feel they would dislike him because of that at all but there’s no way they can feel the same as if it’s Paul Scholes or Ryan Giggs or Gary Neville who come from Manchester.” Wayne Rooney has returned to his boyhood club Credit: ACTION IMAGES Meulensteen believes the sheer variety of goals that Rooney scored, as much as the volume of them, will ultimately shape his legacy. “When you put all of Wayne’s moments together you are going to have a mouth-watering DVD of memories and sometimes people do need reminding,” he said. “Wayne has the biggest, richest variety of goals you can imagine.” Meulensteen might be right. The fall-outs and frustrations all feel rather immaterial when you recall the memory of Rooney berating a referee one second and then the next channelling all of his inner rage into clobbering a wondrous 25-yard volley into the top corner against Newcastle United. “I am in the minority of already treasuring what Rooney did for United,” Chilton says. “It is not a holier-than-thou perch, he did some regretful things, but I think sometimes we football obsessives forget that it’s the moments on the pitch that are cherished. It’s why the chants for Rooney never ceased at the game despite all the chatter about him away from it. Now he has departed people are no longer angry about any decline and the rows and are beginning to see just how good it was.”
Admired or adored? Respected or revered? Liked or loved? They are questions Manchester United fans have grappled with about Wayne Rooney, and as he prepares to return to Old Trafford on Sunday for the first time since leaving the club in the summer to re-join his boyhood idols Everton, it is a debate that will probably resurface in living rooms, cars, pub corners and the terraces. In some respects, it is strange opinion could be so polarised. Rooney was a driving force behind the most successful period in United’s history, when they overcame a purge on their own resources brought about by the Glazer family’s takeover - at the same time that Roman Abramovich’s largesse threatened to usher in an era of sustained Chelsea dominance - to claim three successive Premier League titles and the European Cup. And by the time he departed after 13 years, Rooney had eclipsed Sir Bobby Charlton as the club’s all-time top scorer, despite playing almost 200 fewer games. There is little doubt Rooney is greatly admired by the United faithful and it almost goes without saying that he will be afforded a warm reception. But cherished like Charlton? Worshipped like George Best? Immortalised like Eric Cantona? Eric Cantona is hero-worshipped by United fans Credit: GETTY IMAGES There were fans who scoffed this week at the idea of a statue being erected in Rooney’s honour at Old Trafford, while others were open to it, but iconic status remains a contentious topic. Did the threat to leave and flirtation with Manchester City in 2010 do lasting damage to his standing? Are Rooney’s Liverpool origins something Mancunians sub-consciously cannot fully get past? Did his decline in those final few seasons sour the memory for some? “What makes a universally-loved favourite is complicated,” says Barney Chilton, editor of the respected United fanzine, Red News. “I think there can be a haze in people’s memories. [Cristiano] Ronaldo, for example, drew criticism near the end despite his outstanding performances, which some erase from the memory.” Rene Meulensteen argues, quite forcibly, that adulation will come with the passage of time, once Rooney has hung up his boots, and that United fans will look back with awe at the way in which he was consistently willing to sacrifice personal accolades for the sake of the team, and not least Ronaldo. Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo formed a lethal partnership Credit: AFP “Wayne was a high achiever but first and foremost he was a team player – very selfless and very versatile,” said Meulensteen, United’s first-team coach for the final six years of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign. “I remember the season after Ronaldo left he played up front and scored a lot of goals. He was up there challenging for the golden boot but Wayne has never really chased any sole, personal glory. We know what Ronaldo did for United and we all know what he has become with Real Madrid, but Wayne was integral to what we did.” For all the goals and glory, does it matter that Rooney never really had one crowning, iconic moment at United that truly defined him? The overhead kick against Manchester City in 2011? Yes, but still not defining in the way Best and Munich survivor Charlton, say, had the 1968 European Cup final or Ole Gunnar Solkajer the Nou Camp in 1999; or Eric Cantona that goal in the FA Cup final against Liverpool to secure the double in 1996 or captain marvel Bryan Robson with Barcelona ’84; or Roy Keane dragging his team to victory over Juventus and into the Champions League final, despite knowing he would miss the biggest game of his life through suspension. “Timing definitely plays a part,” said Paddy Crerand, who was part of that victorious 1968 European Cup side. “I think Wayne has been a magnificent player for United and I think he’ll get a great reception. But he won’t be idolised anything like Best, Law, Charlton or Cantona. I remember a couple of days after Best had been released from his United contract, 8,000 fans turned up at Edgeley Park to watch him play for Stockport County! That’s adulation.” Jamie Carragher wonders if England was a complicating factor for Rooney in his relationship with United fans, in much the same way it was for Michael Owen at Liverpool, where he never attained the hero status at Liverpool that Robbie Fowler enjoyed. “When Rooney went to Man United at 18 he was already England’s biggest player on the back of Euro 2004 and every time he got injured, it was always a case of, ‘Is he going to be fit for the World Cup, is he going to be fit for this tournament?’” said Carragher, the former Liverpool and England defender. Rooney's England career “Michael Owen had only really had one season at Liverpool before the 1998 World Cup and it felt like he was England’s property and it used to irritate Liverpool fans. As soon as Rooney went to Old Trafford it felt like it was England’s player going to United, rather than Everton’s player, in some way. He’s never hid he’s a big Everton fan, he was England property when he came to United. Is that maybe something to do with it - that he’s never quite been United’s?” Speaking as a Liverpudlian, could Carragher say Steven Gerrard would have been held in the same esteem at Anfield had he hailed from Manchester? “No, I don’t think so,” he said. “I don’t think people will feel they would dislike him because of that at all but there’s no way they can feel the same as if it’s Paul Scholes or Ryan Giggs or Gary Neville who come from Manchester.” Wayne Rooney has returned to his boyhood club Credit: ACTION IMAGES Meulensteen believes the sheer variety of goals that Rooney scored, as much as the volume of them, will ultimately shape his legacy. “When you put all of Wayne’s moments together you are going to have a mouth-watering DVD of memories and sometimes people do need reminding,” he said. “Wayne has the biggest, richest variety of goals you can imagine.” Meulensteen might be right. The fall-outs and frustrations all feel rather immaterial when you recall the memory of Rooney berating a referee one second and then the next channelling all of his inner rage into clobbering a wondrous 25-yard volley into the top corner against Newcastle United. “I am in the minority of already treasuring what Rooney did for United,” Chilton says. “It is not a holier-than-thou perch, he did some regretful things, but I think sometimes we football obsessives forget that it’s the moments on the pitch that are cherished. It’s why the chants for Rooney never ceased at the game despite all the chatter about him away from it. Now he has departed people are no longer angry about any decline and the rows and are beginning to see just how good it was.”
Why does Wayne Rooney's iconic status at Man Utd remain such a contentious topic?
Admired or adored? Respected or revered? Liked or loved? They are questions Manchester United fans have grappled with about Wayne Rooney, and as he prepares to return to Old Trafford on Sunday for the first time since leaving the club in the summer to re-join his boyhood idols Everton, it is a debate that will probably resurface in living rooms, cars, pub corners and the terraces. In some respects, it is strange opinion could be so polarised. Rooney was a driving force behind the most successful period in United’s history, when they overcame a purge on their own resources brought about by the Glazer family’s takeover - at the same time that Roman Abramovich’s largesse threatened to usher in an era of sustained Chelsea dominance - to claim three successive Premier League titles and the European Cup. And by the time he departed after 13 years, Rooney had eclipsed Sir Bobby Charlton as the club’s all-time top scorer, despite playing almost 200 fewer games. There is little doubt Rooney is greatly admired by the United faithful and it almost goes without saying that he will be afforded a warm reception. But cherished like Charlton? Worshipped like George Best? Immortalised like Eric Cantona? Eric Cantona is hero-worshipped by United fans Credit: GETTY IMAGES There were fans who scoffed this week at the idea of a statue being erected in Rooney’s honour at Old Trafford, while others were open to it, but iconic status remains a contentious topic. Did the threat to leave and flirtation with Manchester City in 2010 do lasting damage to his standing? Are Rooney’s Liverpool origins something Mancunians sub-consciously cannot fully get past? Did his decline in those final few seasons sour the memory for some? “What makes a universally-loved favourite is complicated,” says Barney Chilton, editor of the respected United fanzine, Red News. “I think there can be a haze in people’s memories. [Cristiano] Ronaldo, for example, drew criticism near the end despite his outstanding performances, which some erase from the memory.” Rene Meulensteen argues, quite forcibly, that adulation will come with the passage of time, once Rooney has hung up his boots, and that United fans will look back with awe at the way in which he was consistently willing to sacrifice personal accolades for the sake of the team, and not least Ronaldo. Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo formed a lethal partnership Credit: AFP “Wayne was a high achiever but first and foremost he was a team player – very selfless and very versatile,” said Meulensteen, United’s first-team coach for the final six years of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign. “I remember the season after Ronaldo left he played up front and scored a lot of goals. He was up there challenging for the golden boot but Wayne has never really chased any sole, personal glory. We know what Ronaldo did for United and we all know what he has become with Real Madrid, but Wayne was integral to what we did.” For all the goals and glory, does it matter that Rooney never really had one crowning, iconic moment at United that truly defined him? The overhead kick against Manchester City in 2011? Yes, but still not defining in the way Best and Munich survivor Charlton, say, had the 1968 European Cup final or Ole Gunnar Solkajer the Nou Camp in 1999; or Eric Cantona that goal in the FA Cup final against Liverpool to secure the double in 1996 or captain marvel Bryan Robson with Barcelona ’84; or Roy Keane dragging his team to victory over Juventus and into the Champions League final, despite knowing he would miss the biggest game of his life through suspension. “Timing definitely plays a part,” said Paddy Crerand, who was part of that victorious 1968 European Cup side. “I think Wayne has been a magnificent player for United and I think he’ll get a great reception. But he won’t be idolised anything like Best, Law, Charlton or Cantona. I remember a couple of days after Best had been released from his United contract, 8,000 fans turned up at Edgeley Park to watch him play for Stockport County! That’s adulation.” Jamie Carragher wonders if England was a complicating factor for Rooney in his relationship with United fans, in much the same way it was for Michael Owen at Liverpool, where he never attained the hero status at Liverpool that Robbie Fowler enjoyed. “When Rooney went to Man United at 18 he was already England’s biggest player on the back of Euro 2004 and every time he got injured, it was always a case of, ‘Is he going to be fit for the World Cup, is he going to be fit for this tournament?’” said Carragher, the former Liverpool and England defender. Rooney's England career “Michael Owen had only really had one season at Liverpool before the 1998 World Cup and it felt like he was England’s property and it used to irritate Liverpool fans. As soon as Rooney went to Old Trafford it felt like it was England’s player going to United, rather than Everton’s player, in some way. He’s never hid he’s a big Everton fan, he was England property when he came to United. Is that maybe something to do with it - that he’s never quite been United’s?” Speaking as a Liverpudlian, could Carragher say Steven Gerrard would have been held in the same esteem at Anfield had he hailed from Manchester? “No, I don’t think so,” he said. “I don’t think people will feel they would dislike him because of that at all but there’s no way they can feel the same as if it’s Paul Scholes or Ryan Giggs or Gary Neville who come from Manchester.” Wayne Rooney has returned to his boyhood club Credit: ACTION IMAGES Meulensteen believes the sheer variety of goals that Rooney scored, as much as the volume of them, will ultimately shape his legacy. “When you put all of Wayne’s moments together you are going to have a mouth-watering DVD of memories and sometimes people do need reminding,” he said. “Wayne has the biggest, richest variety of goals you can imagine.” Meulensteen might be right. The fall-outs and frustrations all feel rather immaterial when you recall the memory of Rooney berating a referee one second and then the next channelling all of his inner rage into clobbering a wondrous 25-yard volley into the top corner against Newcastle United. “I am in the minority of already treasuring what Rooney did for United,” Chilton says. “It is not a holier-than-thou perch, he did some regretful things, but I think sometimes we football obsessives forget that it’s the moments on the pitch that are cherished. It’s why the chants for Rooney never ceased at the game despite all the chatter about him away from it. Now he has departed people are no longer angry about any decline and the rows and are beginning to see just how good it was.”
Admired or adored? Respected or revered? Liked or loved? They are questions Manchester United fans have grappled with about Wayne Rooney, and as he prepares to return to Old Trafford on Sunday for the first time since leaving the club in the summer to re-join his boyhood idols Everton, it is a debate that will probably resurface in living rooms, cars, pub corners and the terraces. In some respects, it is strange opinion could be so polarised. Rooney was a driving force behind the most successful period in United’s history, when they overcame a purge on their own resources brought about by the Glazer family’s takeover - at the same time that Roman Abramovich’s largesse threatened to usher in an era of sustained Chelsea dominance - to claim three successive Premier League titles and the European Cup. And by the time he departed after 13 years, Rooney had eclipsed Sir Bobby Charlton as the club’s all-time top scorer, despite playing almost 200 fewer games. There is little doubt Rooney is greatly admired by the United faithful and it almost goes without saying that he will be afforded a warm reception. But cherished like Charlton? Worshipped like George Best? Immortalised like Eric Cantona? Eric Cantona is hero-worshipped by United fans Credit: GETTY IMAGES There were fans who scoffed this week at the idea of a statue being erected in Rooney’s honour at Old Trafford, while others were open to it, but iconic status remains a contentious topic. Did the threat to leave and flirtation with Manchester City in 2010 do lasting damage to his standing? Are Rooney’s Liverpool origins something Mancunians sub-consciously cannot fully get past? Did his decline in those final few seasons sour the memory for some? “What makes a universally-loved favourite is complicated,” says Barney Chilton, editor of the respected United fanzine, Red News. “I think there can be a haze in people’s memories. [Cristiano] Ronaldo, for example, drew criticism near the end despite his outstanding performances, which some erase from the memory.” Rene Meulensteen argues, quite forcibly, that adulation will come with the passage of time, once Rooney has hung up his boots, and that United fans will look back with awe at the way in which he was consistently willing to sacrifice personal accolades for the sake of the team, and not least Ronaldo. Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo formed a lethal partnership Credit: AFP “Wayne was a high achiever but first and foremost he was a team player – very selfless and very versatile,” said Meulensteen, United’s first-team coach for the final six years of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign. “I remember the season after Ronaldo left he played up front and scored a lot of goals. He was up there challenging for the golden boot but Wayne has never really chased any sole, personal glory. We know what Ronaldo did for United and we all know what he has become with Real Madrid, but Wayne was integral to what we did.” For all the goals and glory, does it matter that Rooney never really had one crowning, iconic moment at United that truly defined him? The overhead kick against Manchester City in 2011? Yes, but still not defining in the way Best and Munich survivor Charlton, say, had the 1968 European Cup final or Ole Gunnar Solkajer the Nou Camp in 1999; or Eric Cantona that goal in the FA Cup final against Liverpool to secure the double in 1996 or captain marvel Bryan Robson with Barcelona ’84; or Roy Keane dragging his team to victory over Juventus and into the Champions League final, despite knowing he would miss the biggest game of his life through suspension. “Timing definitely plays a part,” said Paddy Crerand, who was part of that victorious 1968 European Cup side. “I think Wayne has been a magnificent player for United and I think he’ll get a great reception. But he won’t be idolised anything like Best, Law, Charlton or Cantona. I remember a couple of days after Best had been released from his United contract, 8,000 fans turned up at Edgeley Park to watch him play for Stockport County! That’s adulation.” Jamie Carragher wonders if England was a complicating factor for Rooney in his relationship with United fans, in much the same way it was for Michael Owen at Liverpool, where he never attained the hero status at Liverpool that Robbie Fowler enjoyed. “When Rooney went to Man United at 18 he was already England’s biggest player on the back of Euro 2004 and every time he got injured, it was always a case of, ‘Is he going to be fit for the World Cup, is he going to be fit for this tournament?’” said Carragher, the former Liverpool and England defender. Rooney's England career “Michael Owen had only really had one season at Liverpool before the 1998 World Cup and it felt like he was England’s property and it used to irritate Liverpool fans. As soon as Rooney went to Old Trafford it felt like it was England’s player going to United, rather than Everton’s player, in some way. He’s never hid he’s a big Everton fan, he was England property when he came to United. Is that maybe something to do with it - that he’s never quite been United’s?” Speaking as a Liverpudlian, could Carragher say Steven Gerrard would have been held in the same esteem at Anfield had he hailed from Manchester? “No, I don’t think so,” he said. “I don’t think people will feel they would dislike him because of that at all but there’s no way they can feel the same as if it’s Paul Scholes or Ryan Giggs or Gary Neville who come from Manchester.” Wayne Rooney has returned to his boyhood club Credit: ACTION IMAGES Meulensteen believes the sheer variety of goals that Rooney scored, as much as the volume of them, will ultimately shape his legacy. “When you put all of Wayne’s moments together you are going to have a mouth-watering DVD of memories and sometimes people do need reminding,” he said. “Wayne has the biggest, richest variety of goals you can imagine.” Meulensteen might be right. The fall-outs and frustrations all feel rather immaterial when you recall the memory of Rooney berating a referee one second and then the next channelling all of his inner rage into clobbering a wondrous 25-yard volley into the top corner against Newcastle United. “I am in the minority of already treasuring what Rooney did for United,” Chilton says. “It is not a holier-than-thou perch, he did some regretful things, but I think sometimes we football obsessives forget that it’s the moments on the pitch that are cherished. It’s why the chants for Rooney never ceased at the game despite all the chatter about him away from it. Now he has departed people are no longer angry about any decline and the rows and are beginning to see just how good it was.”
Why does Wayne Rooney's iconic status at Man Utd remain such a contentious topic?
Admired or adored? Respected or revered? Liked or loved? They are questions Manchester United fans have grappled with about Wayne Rooney, and as he prepares to return to Old Trafford on Sunday for the first time since leaving the club in the summer to re-join his boyhood idols Everton, it is a debate that will probably resurface in living rooms, cars, pub corners and the terraces. In some respects, it is strange opinion could be so polarised. Rooney was a driving force behind the most successful period in United’s history, when they overcame a purge on their own resources brought about by the Glazer family’s takeover - at the same time that Roman Abramovich’s largesse threatened to usher in an era of sustained Chelsea dominance - to claim three successive Premier League titles and the European Cup. And by the time he departed after 13 years, Rooney had eclipsed Sir Bobby Charlton as the club’s all-time top scorer, despite playing almost 200 fewer games. There is little doubt Rooney is greatly admired by the United faithful and it almost goes without saying that he will be afforded a warm reception. But cherished like Charlton? Worshipped like George Best? Immortalised like Eric Cantona? Eric Cantona is hero-worshipped by United fans Credit: GETTY IMAGES There were fans who scoffed this week at the idea of a statue being erected in Rooney’s honour at Old Trafford, while others were open to it, but iconic status remains a contentious topic. Did the threat to leave and flirtation with Manchester City in 2010 do lasting damage to his standing? Are Rooney’s Liverpool origins something Mancunians sub-consciously cannot fully get past? Did his decline in those final few seasons sour the memory for some? “What makes a universally-loved favourite is complicated,” says Barney Chilton, editor of the respected United fanzine, Red News. “I think there can be a haze in people’s memories. [Cristiano] Ronaldo, for example, drew criticism near the end despite his outstanding performances, which some erase from the memory.” Rene Meulensteen argues, quite forcibly, that adulation will come with the passage of time, once Rooney has hung up his boots, and that United fans will look back with awe at the way in which he was consistently willing to sacrifice personal accolades for the sake of the team, and not least Ronaldo. Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo formed a lethal partnership Credit: AFP “Wayne was a high achiever but first and foremost he was a team player – very selfless and very versatile,” said Meulensteen, United’s first-team coach for the final six years of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign. “I remember the season after Ronaldo left he played up front and scored a lot of goals. He was up there challenging for the golden boot but Wayne has never really chased any sole, personal glory. We know what Ronaldo did for United and we all know what he has become with Real Madrid, but Wayne was integral to what we did.” For all the goals and glory, does it matter that Rooney never really had one crowning, iconic moment at United that truly defined him? The overhead kick against Manchester City in 2011? Yes, but still not defining in the way Best and Munich survivor Charlton, say, had the 1968 European Cup final or Ole Gunnar Solkajer the Nou Camp in 1999; or Eric Cantona that goal in the FA Cup final against Liverpool to secure the double in 1996 or captain marvel Bryan Robson with Barcelona ’84; or Roy Keane dragging his team to victory over Juventus and into the Champions League final, despite knowing he would miss the biggest game of his life through suspension. “Timing definitely plays a part,” said Paddy Crerand, who was part of that victorious 1968 European Cup side. “I think Wayne has been a magnificent player for United and I think he’ll get a great reception. But he won’t be idolised anything like Best, Law, Charlton or Cantona. I remember a couple of days after Best had been released from his United contract, 8,000 fans turned up at Edgeley Park to watch him play for Stockport County! That’s adulation.” Jamie Carragher wonders if England was a complicating factor for Rooney in his relationship with United fans, in much the same way it was for Michael Owen at Liverpool, where he never attained the hero status at Liverpool that Robbie Fowler enjoyed. “When Rooney went to Man United at 18 he was already England’s biggest player on the back of Euro 2004 and every time he got injured, it was always a case of, ‘Is he going to be fit for the World Cup, is he going to be fit for this tournament?’” said Carragher, the former Liverpool and England defender. Rooney's England career “Michael Owen had only really had one season at Liverpool before the 1998 World Cup and it felt like he was England’s property and it used to irritate Liverpool fans. As soon as Rooney went to Old Trafford it felt like it was England’s player going to United, rather than Everton’s player, in some way. He’s never hid he’s a big Everton fan, he was England property when he came to United. Is that maybe something to do with it - that he’s never quite been United’s?” Speaking as a Liverpudlian, could Carragher say Steven Gerrard would have been held in the same esteem at Anfield had he hailed from Manchester? “No, I don’t think so,” he said. “I don’t think people will feel they would dislike him because of that at all but there’s no way they can feel the same as if it’s Paul Scholes or Ryan Giggs or Gary Neville who come from Manchester.” Wayne Rooney has returned to his boyhood club Credit: ACTION IMAGES Meulensteen believes the sheer variety of goals that Rooney scored, as much as the volume of them, will ultimately shape his legacy. “When you put all of Wayne’s moments together you are going to have a mouth-watering DVD of memories and sometimes people do need reminding,” he said. “Wayne has the biggest, richest variety of goals you can imagine.” Meulensteen might be right. The fall-outs and frustrations all feel rather immaterial when you recall the memory of Rooney berating a referee one second and then the next channelling all of his inner rage into clobbering a wondrous 25-yard volley into the top corner against Newcastle United. “I am in the minority of already treasuring what Rooney did for United,” Chilton says. “It is not a holier-than-thou perch, he did some regretful things, but I think sometimes we football obsessives forget that it’s the moments on the pitch that are cherished. It’s why the chants for Rooney never ceased at the game despite all the chatter about him away from it. Now he has departed people are no longer angry about any decline and the rows and are beginning to see just how good it was.”
Admired or adored? Respected or revered? Liked or loved? They are questions Manchester United fans have grappled with about Wayne Rooney, and as he prepares to return to Old Trafford on Sunday for the first time since leaving the club in the summer to re-join his boyhood idols Everton, it is a debate that will probably resurface in living rooms, cars, pub corners and the terraces. In some respects, it is strange opinion could be so polarised. Rooney was a driving force behind the most successful period in United’s history, when they overcame a purge on their own resources brought about by the Glazer family’s takeover - at the same time that Roman Abramovich’s largesse threatened to usher in an era of sustained Chelsea dominance - to claim three successive Premier League titles and the European Cup. And by the time he departed after 13 years, Rooney had eclipsed Sir Bobby Charlton as the club’s all-time top scorer, despite playing almost 200 fewer games. There is little doubt Rooney is greatly admired by the United faithful and it almost goes without saying that he will be afforded a warm reception. But cherished like Charlton? Worshipped like George Best? Immortalised like Eric Cantona? Eric Cantona is hero-worshipped by United fans Credit: GETTY IMAGES There were fans who scoffed this week at the idea of a statue being erected in Rooney’s honour at Old Trafford, while others were open to it, but iconic status remains a contentious topic. Did the threat to leave and flirtation with Manchester City in 2010 do lasting damage to his standing? Are Rooney’s Liverpool origins something Mancunians sub-consciously cannot fully get past? Did his decline in those final few seasons sour the memory for some? “What makes a universally-loved favourite is complicated,” says Barney Chilton, editor of the respected United fanzine, Red News. “I think there can be a haze in people’s memories. [Cristiano] Ronaldo, for example, drew criticism near the end despite his outstanding performances, which some erase from the memory.” Rene Meulensteen argues, quite forcibly, that adulation will come with the passage of time, once Rooney has hung up his boots, and that United fans will look back with awe at the way in which he was consistently willing to sacrifice personal accolades for the sake of the team, and not least Ronaldo. Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo formed a lethal partnership Credit: AFP “Wayne was a high achiever but first and foremost he was a team player – very selfless and very versatile,” said Meulensteen, United’s first-team coach for the final six years of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign. “I remember the season after Ronaldo left he played up front and scored a lot of goals. He was up there challenging for the golden boot but Wayne has never really chased any sole, personal glory. We know what Ronaldo did for United and we all know what he has become with Real Madrid, but Wayne was integral to what we did.” For all the goals and glory, does it matter that Rooney never really had one crowning, iconic moment at United that truly defined him? The overhead kick against Manchester City in 2011? Yes, but still not defining in the way Best and Munich survivor Charlton, say, had the 1968 European Cup final or Ole Gunnar Solkajer the Nou Camp in 1999; or Eric Cantona that goal in the FA Cup final against Liverpool to secure the double in 1996 or captain marvel Bryan Robson with Barcelona ’84; or Roy Keane dragging his team to victory over Juventus and into the Champions League final, despite knowing he would miss the biggest game of his life through suspension. “Timing definitely plays a part,” said Paddy Crerand, who was part of that victorious 1968 European Cup side. “I think Wayne has been a magnificent player for United and I think he’ll get a great reception. But he won’t be idolised anything like Best, Law, Charlton or Cantona. I remember a couple of days after Best had been released from his United contract, 8,000 fans turned up at Edgeley Park to watch him play for Stockport County! That’s adulation.” Jamie Carragher wonders if England was a complicating factor for Rooney in his relationship with United fans, in much the same way it was for Michael Owen at Liverpool, where he never attained the hero status at Liverpool that Robbie Fowler enjoyed. “When Rooney went to Man United at 18 he was already England’s biggest player on the back of Euro 2004 and every time he got injured, it was always a case of, ‘Is he going to be fit for the World Cup, is he going to be fit for this tournament?’” said Carragher, the former Liverpool and England defender. Rooney's England career “Michael Owen had only really had one season at Liverpool before the 1998 World Cup and it felt like he was England’s property and it used to irritate Liverpool fans. As soon as Rooney went to Old Trafford it felt like it was England’s player going to United, rather than Everton’s player, in some way. He’s never hid he’s a big Everton fan, he was England property when he came to United. Is that maybe something to do with it - that he’s never quite been United’s?” Speaking as a Liverpudlian, could Carragher say Steven Gerrard would have been held in the same esteem at Anfield had he hailed from Manchester? “No, I don’t think so,” he said. “I don’t think people will feel they would dislike him because of that at all but there’s no way they can feel the same as if it’s Paul Scholes or Ryan Giggs or Gary Neville who come from Manchester.” Wayne Rooney has returned to his boyhood club Credit: ACTION IMAGES Meulensteen believes the sheer variety of goals that Rooney scored, as much as the volume of them, will ultimately shape his legacy. “When you put all of Wayne’s moments together you are going to have a mouth-watering DVD of memories and sometimes people do need reminding,” he said. “Wayne has the biggest, richest variety of goals you can imagine.” Meulensteen might be right. The fall-outs and frustrations all feel rather immaterial when you recall the memory of Rooney berating a referee one second and then the next channelling all of his inner rage into clobbering a wondrous 25-yard volley into the top corner against Newcastle United. “I am in the minority of already treasuring what Rooney did for United,” Chilton says. “It is not a holier-than-thou perch, he did some regretful things, but I think sometimes we football obsessives forget that it’s the moments on the pitch that are cherished. It’s why the chants for Rooney never ceased at the game despite all the chatter about him away from it. Now he has departed people are no longer angry about any decline and the rows and are beginning to see just how good it was.”
Why does Wayne Rooney's iconic status at Man Utd remain such a contentious topic?
Admired or adored? Respected or revered? Liked or loved? They are questions Manchester United fans have grappled with about Wayne Rooney, and as he prepares to return to Old Trafford on Sunday for the first time since leaving the club in the summer to re-join his boyhood idols Everton, it is a debate that will probably resurface in living rooms, cars, pub corners and the terraces. In some respects, it is strange opinion could be so polarised. Rooney was a driving force behind the most successful period in United’s history, when they overcame a purge on their own resources brought about by the Glazer family’s takeover - at the same time that Roman Abramovich’s largesse threatened to usher in an era of sustained Chelsea dominance - to claim three successive Premier League titles and the European Cup. And by the time he departed after 13 years, Rooney had eclipsed Sir Bobby Charlton as the club’s all-time top scorer, despite playing almost 200 fewer games. There is little doubt Rooney is greatly admired by the United faithful and it almost goes without saying that he will be afforded a warm reception. But cherished like Charlton? Worshipped like George Best? Immortalised like Eric Cantona? Eric Cantona is hero-worshipped by United fans Credit: GETTY IMAGES There were fans who scoffed this week at the idea of a statue being erected in Rooney’s honour at Old Trafford, while others were open to it, but iconic status remains a contentious topic. Did the threat to leave and flirtation with Manchester City in 2010 do lasting damage to his standing? Are Rooney’s Liverpool origins something Mancunians sub-consciously cannot fully get past? Did his decline in those final few seasons sour the memory for some? “What makes a universally-loved favourite is complicated,” says Barney Chilton, editor of the respected United fanzine, Red News. “I think there can be a haze in people’s memories. [Cristiano] Ronaldo, for example, drew criticism near the end despite his outstanding performances, which some erase from the memory.” Rene Meulensteen argues, quite forcibly, that adulation will come with the passage of time, once Rooney has hung up his boots, and that United fans will look back with awe at the way in which he was consistently willing to sacrifice personal accolades for the sake of the team, and not least Ronaldo. Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo formed a lethal partnership Credit: AFP “Wayne was a high achiever but first and foremost he was a team player – very selfless and very versatile,” said Meulensteen, United’s first-team coach for the final six years of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign. “I remember the season after Ronaldo left he played up front and scored a lot of goals. He was up there challenging for the golden boot but Wayne has never really chased any sole, personal glory. We know what Ronaldo did for United and we all know what he has become with Real Madrid, but Wayne was integral to what we did.” For all the goals and glory, does it matter that Rooney never really had one crowning, iconic moment at United that truly defined him? The overhead kick against Manchester City in 2011? Yes, but still not defining in the way Best and Munich survivor Charlton, say, had the 1968 European Cup final or Ole Gunnar Solkajer the Nou Camp in 1999; or Eric Cantona that goal in the FA Cup final against Liverpool to secure the double in 1996 or captain marvel Bryan Robson with Barcelona ’84; or Roy Keane dragging his team to victory over Juventus and into the Champions League final, despite knowing he would miss the biggest game of his life through suspension. “Timing definitely plays a part,” said Paddy Crerand, who was part of that victorious 1968 European Cup side. “I think Wayne has been a magnificent player for United and I think he’ll get a great reception. But he won’t be idolised anything like Best, Law, Charlton or Cantona. I remember a couple of days after Best had been released from his United contract, 8,000 fans turned up at Edgeley Park to watch him play for Stockport County! That’s adulation.” Jamie Carragher wonders if England was a complicating factor for Rooney in his relationship with United fans, in much the same way it was for Michael Owen at Liverpool, where he never attained the hero status at Liverpool that Robbie Fowler enjoyed. “When Rooney went to Man United at 18 he was already England’s biggest player on the back of Euro 2004 and every time he got injured, it was always a case of, ‘Is he going to be fit for the World Cup, is he going to be fit for this tournament?’” said Carragher, the former Liverpool and England defender. Rooney's England career “Michael Owen had only really had one season at Liverpool before the 1998 World Cup and it felt like he was England’s property and it used to irritate Liverpool fans. As soon as Rooney went to Old Trafford it felt like it was England’s player going to United, rather than Everton’s player, in some way. He’s never hid he’s a big Everton fan, he was England property when he came to United. Is that maybe something to do with it - that he’s never quite been United’s?” Speaking as a Liverpudlian, could Carragher say Steven Gerrard would have been held in the same esteem at Anfield had he hailed from Manchester? “No, I don’t think so,” he said. “I don’t think people will feel they would dislike him because of that at all but there’s no way they can feel the same as if it’s Paul Scholes or Ryan Giggs or Gary Neville who come from Manchester.” Wayne Rooney has returned to his boyhood club Credit: ACTION IMAGES Meulensteen believes the sheer variety of goals that Rooney scored, as much as the volume of them, will ultimately shape his legacy. “When you put all of Wayne’s moments together you are going to have a mouth-watering DVD of memories and sometimes people do need reminding,” he said. “Wayne has the biggest, richest variety of goals you can imagine.” Meulensteen might be right. The fall-outs and frustrations all feel rather immaterial when you recall the memory of Rooney berating a referee one second and then the next channelling all of his inner rage into clobbering a wondrous 25-yard volley into the top corner against Newcastle United. “I am in the minority of already treasuring what Rooney did for United,” Chilton says. “It is not a holier-than-thou perch, he did some regretful things, but I think sometimes we football obsessives forget that it’s the moments on the pitch that are cherished. It’s why the chants for Rooney never ceased at the game despite all the chatter about him away from it. Now he has departed people are no longer angry about any decline and the rows and are beginning to see just how good it was.”
Louis van Gaal could have teenage goalkeeper Dean Henderson on the bench for Monday's FA Cup tie with Shrewsbury.
Under-pressure Van Gaal recalls goalkeeper from National League North side Stockport County
Louis van Gaal could have teenage goalkeeper Dean Henderson on the bench for Monday's FA Cup tie with Shrewsbury.

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