LONDON (AFP) – Southampton forward Rickie Lambert admitted his first England call-up for next Wednesday’s friendly against Scotland had completed one of the best days of his life.
Lambert learnt he had been included in Roy Hodgson’s squad for the Wembley clash just hours after dashing to hospital with his wife in the middle of the night for the birth of the couple’s third child.
The Football Association rang Southampton around midday to inform them that Lambert had been included and Saints relayed the message to a stunned Lambert soon after.
Now the arrival of the 31-year-old’s first daughter, named Bella Rose, will forever hold an extra special meaning for the much-travelled striker.
“It’s been a special day and I’m trying to absorb what’s happened,” Lambert told Southampton’s website.
“It’s hard to describe how I’m feeling, if I’m being honest. Today has been a bit of a blur because there are a few things that have happened in my life and I’m trying to take them in.
“I was obviously already over the moon about the birth of my daughter — she was born at half-past-four this morning, and she’s doing fine and so is the mother.
“And I’m absolutely delighted to be involved with England. It’s the dream I’ve been fighting for and hoping for all my life.
“I don’t think I’ll be forgetting this day any time soon.”
Lambert’s rise to international recognition is a remarkable tale after a career spent at the likes of Macclesfield Town, Stockport County and Rochdale.
Last season was his first in the Premier League following a career that began at Blackpool in 1998 in the old second division, now called League One, the third tier of English football.
In fact, after being released by Blackpool aged 18, he did not even play in the second tier, the Championship, until winning promotion from League One with Southampton in 2010-11.
He fired Southampton to promotion in 2012 and managed 15 goals in 38 appearances for a team battling relegation in his first campaign in the Premier League.
“For most of my career I didn’t think it’d ever happen,” Lambert said. “I’m over the moon just to be involved, but I want to make a claim and show that I’m here for the future.
“Obviously I understand my age means I’m not going to be there for the long term, but I am hoping that I can bring something to the squad over the next year or so.”
Lambert is joined by Manchester United winger Wilfried Zaha, bidding to earn his second cap following a debut in a friendly against Sweden in November.
Captain Steven Gerrard and Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere also return while Manchester City pair Joleon Lescott and Jack Rodwell are amongst those to miss out.
There was also a place for unsettled Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney, despite having been out injured for his club’s recent pre-season tour of Asia through injury.
Although Rooney has been selected, he is recovering from a shoulder injury and may not achieve full fitness in time as he has missed all of United’s pre-season friendlies.
He did play in one practice match, behind closed doors against Real Betis, between hamstring and shoulder problems and asked to train with United’s reserves this week, reportedly in a bid to get fit in time for Scotland’s visit to Wembley.
Goalkeepers: Ben Foster (West Bromwich Albion), Joe Hart (Manchester City, John Ruddy (Norwich City)
Defenders Leighton Baines (Everton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Chris Smalling (Manchester United), Kyle Walker (Tottenham)
Midfielders: Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Tom Cleverley (Manchester United), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool, capt), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), James Milner (Manchester City), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)
Forwards: Jermain Defoe (Tottenham), Rickie Lambert (Southampton), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Danny Welbeck (Manchester United), Ashley Young (Manchester United), Wilfried Zaha (Manchester United)