Rickie Lambert will be for Liverpool that Andy Carroll never could

Rickie Lambert

Liverpool's newest target man will not fall afoul of his predecessor's flaws.

In the spring of 1984, when Rickie Lambert was still a toddler, Liverpool fans were transfixed to their television screens - and not just because Joe Fagan's side were closing in on an unprecedented treble.

The sight of a grinning scallywag and protagonist of Channel Four drama 'Scully' running out at Anfield in that iconic yet tight-fitting all red strip alongside Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness et al from those halcyon days was a source of envy for countless adolescent Kopites.

Three decades on, Lambert is set to retrace Francis Scully's steps. But while the 32-year-old's appearances in a Liverpool shirt will inevitably be captured for posterity, it is not the ideas factory of playwright Alan Bleasdale that will see him living out those dreams of his elders.

The path back to his spiritual home has provided a rags-to-riches narrative that makes the script for 'When Saturday Comes', showcased in cinemas a year before he was released in 1997 from Liverpool's centre of excellence as a 15-year-old, seem minor in comparison.

Last week's £4million arrival from Southampton, however, is more than simply a romanticised tale of how the Kirkby-born striker went from grafting in a beetroot bottling plant to an England international and the Anfield homecoming that he previously thought to be inconceivable.

Brendan Rodgers has finally acknowledged that his plan B can no longer simply be an upgrade on plan A. That failure to deviate from the tiki taka blueprint has proved costly for Liverpool in games where breaking down defences required a battering ram rather than intricate safe-crackers.

His previous reluctance to entertain a target man as a fail-safe option was arguably as detrimental to last season's see-saw race with Manchester City to claim the Premier League title as much as his side's haphazard defence, but Lambert's capture suggests he has since had food for thought.

Liverpool's willingness last summer to take a significant loss on their record-breaking £35M outlay for Andy Carroll offered an amicable solution to what had devolved into a nightmare situation for all concerned; the Gateshead-born striker was never going to live up to his lofty price tag.

But even Rodgers admitted as recently as last month that Carroll could still 'cause real problems' as he hoped West Ham could defy the odds and gatecrash City's final day coronation.

Lambert, however, is a different breed of towering striker to his predecessor in the Anfield front line. Whereas Carroll required a tailor-made deliveries, which saw Liverpool fritter away a further £20M to sign Stewart Downing, Lambert offers a more diverse attacking portfolio.

Rickie Lambert Southampton FW 13 37 2,816
Andy Carroll West Ham FW 2 15 1,093

With a combined 23 goals and assists last season, he can provide as well as poach. Equally, though, Lambert is under no illusion that his place within the club's on-field hierarchy for the majority of his stay will be predominantly behind first-choice strikers Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge.

Shared responsibility also features heavily on Lambert's attributes list, with a willingness to help out at the other end of the field as much as his desire to cause problems for defences.

Had Liverpool been afforded his presence during April's defeat to Chelsea, instead of sending on Iago Aspas as the cavalry, the outcome would almost certainly been very different.

Like Craig Bellamy, Lambert returns to his boyhood club at an advanced stage of his career - although his belated arrival in the Premier League and performances for Southampton belie his age - but the benefit of another genuine fan in the ranks should not be underestimated.

While mercenaries looking to use Liverpool as a thoroughfare to bolster their unspectacular playing CVs are often bemoaned and questioned, there will be no question of Lambert's commitment to the cause, as was the case with Bellamy in that 2011-12 campaign.

True to the oft used cliche, he possesses a good touch for a big man; those that were able to witness him leading the line for Southampton during their win over Liverpool last September will attest to that.

Now they will see just how far he has come in the 17 years he spent away from Anfield.

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