For Rickie Lambert, a lifelong Liverpool supporter, the moment when he clinched victory at Aston Villa on Saturday was special. After powering home past Brad Guzan from the edge of the area on 79 minutes past the stranded Brad Guzan, the Kirkby-born and raised striker ran to celebrate with his own fans, the culmination of a lifetime’s ambition.
Lambert, the former Liverpool trainee who re-joined from Southampton in the summer, has scored goals for the club before at Ludogrets and Crystal Palace, but this was the first time he could share the moment with those he used to accompany on the terraces. Not even a booking, which manager Brendan Rodgers forgave, could dampen his spirits.
“You can’t beat that feeling of a scoring a goal especially scoring a goal for Liverpool,” he said. “Seeing the ball hitting the net. It’s great. I will always remember that.
“I love those celebrations, I love watching them on telly. To do it myself with the Liverpool fans is something I will always remember.”
With only five league starts to his name, Lambert has already been linked with an immediate move away from the club. But as he contemplates tomorrow’s Capital One Cup tie with Chelsea, a match that brings back special memories of the 2005 Champions League campaign, he is desperate to remain at the club he loves.
“The way I feel, I’ve no intention of leaving Liverpool while ever they want me,” he said after his goal added to Fabio Borini’s close-range 24th-minute finish. “If they don’t want me then I will go somewhere else but as long as they want me, I’m here to help in whatever way I can.
“We’ve managed to stay in the cups. Obviously, we’d have loved to stay in the Champions League but we’re in three cups and we’re flying up the league
“I went to the semi final against Chelsea in the 2005 Champions League – it was the best atmosphere I’ve ever experienced in my life. I was in the Centenary Stand. It was brilliant. Unbelievable.
“Any trophy for Liverpool is what you want to try and do. The League Cup is the first one, so that’s the one we will try to win first.
“We’re getting better and better – that’s the most exciting thing. We’ve got players coming back and we’re still in all the cups.
“Chelsea will probably be favourites, that’s fair to say. But I think we are in better shape going into this game than we were a couple of months ago. I think we’ve got the winning mentality back now.
“I don’t want to be disrespectful but I don’t want to talk about past games. I can talk about iconic games of the past all day long, but I really want to just think about now and the next game.
“I want to help us create our own history. I can’t imagine the atmosphere will be as good as it was that night.”
It was a tale of two Lamberts though. Paul Lambert, who himself won the Champions League with Borussia Dortmund as a player in 1997, remained defiant after another defeat taking the goalless Villa sequence to over eight hours. They have scored a pitiful 11 goals in 22 Premier League matches this term although at least new signing Carles Gil impressed as sub.
“If you saw me before the European Cup final that was pressure,” he said.
“I thought my a*** was going to fall out of my shorts!
“Football is my life and if you cannot handle pressure you’re in the wrong job.
“The club probably isn’t what it was six, maybe seven years ago and finances dictate a lot, especially in this league.
“If we can get new signings we will, as I’ve said before finances dictate what’s going to happen, that’s always the case. I always confident with these lads. If they keep doing what they were doing out there the goals will come.”
Opposite number Brendan Rodgers had sympathy for Lambert, insisting the expectations of Villa fans are far too high.
“I have a lot of empathy for every manager, but in particular Paul,” he said.
“We came through the Championship together, got promoted together and were appointed at the same time.
“He is trying to develop young players, expectancy here is probably very high but he does not have the finances here to compete. They don’t have the resources to be top four, top six. He is doing the best he can.”
ASTON VILLA (4-3-3): Guzan 7; Hutton 7, Okore 7, Baker 5, Cissokho 6; Sanchez 7, Westwood 6 (Gil 59, 7), Delph 7; Cleverley 6 (Weimann 59, 7), Agbonlahor 6, Benteke 7.
LIVERPOOL (3-4-3): Mignolet 8; Can 6, Skrtel 7, Sakho 7; Markovic 6, Henderson 7, Leiva 7, Moreno 6 (Enrique 71, 6); Sterling 6 (Ibe 85), Borini 7 (Lambert 71, 7), Coutinho 7.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg 7 (Tyne and Wear).