We continue our look back at the Silkmen stars of yesteryear, by featuring a player who learnt his trade at the Moss Rose before going on to become one of the most clinical strikers in the country.
Rickie Lee Lambert was born in Kirkby, Merseyside in 1982. A Liverpool fan and football fanatic from birth, he joined his beloved Reds at the tender age of ten and spent his early days in the Youth Team - looking up to players such as Ian Rush and Robbie Fowler.
Yet five years later, Rickie got his first taste of rejection in the game when he was released by his boyhood club.
Despite this, Rickie still saw his future in football and after struggling at school. he joined Blackpool in 1998 as a trainee. Making his professional debut aged seventeen as a 68th minute substitute, success as a Seasider was not to be and he was released in November 2000 after only two further appearances from the bench.
Remaining a free agent for the subsequent few months, Rickie took a job in a beetroot bottling factory near Ormskirk to make ends meet. It was during this time that he joined Macclesfield on non-contract terms, getting just £50 per week in expenses.
Talking to the Daily Mail in 2017, Rickie confessed that although he still believed he could make it as a footballer, he was struggling to turn the dream into reality at that point -
“It got to a point at Macclesfield where I had to say, 'I can't afford this any more'. I knew I was close to the First Team, but I was going to have to stop. It was only then that Gil Prescott gave me a contract.”
The faith shown by Gil proved to be the catalyst that Rickie needed. The following season he quickly became a First Team regular - making over fourty appearances and scoring ten goals. It was also whilst at Macclesfield that Rickie achieved a number of footballing firsts, including his first appearance in the FA Cup, his first penalty and first hat-trick.
It became obvious to both fans and the wider footballing world that Rickie was destined for bigger things and he was subsequently bought by then Second Division Stockport County in April 2002.
Three years at Edgeley Park followed, with personal success overshadowing a struggling Stockport side. Still playing in midfield, it was only after moving to Rochdale that Rickie realised that he would perhaps be better off as an out-and-out striker.
'It was Steve Parkin who put me there' said Lambert in the same Daily Mail article.
'I think I'd scored six goals in ten games from midfield when Steve told me he was moving me up front.'
It was the right decision. Twenty-two league goals followed and after a move to Bristol Rovers in 2006, a further twenty-nine strikes over course of the 2008/09 season caught the eye of Alan Pardew at Southampton.
Richie’s prolific goal scoring prowess continued with The Saints, as thirty goals in his first season on the south coast catapulted him to become an immediate fan favourite.
However, Pardew had noticed that his star striker perhaps wasn’t taking care of himself as much as he should have been doing and hauled him into his office for some home truths!. It proved to be another turning point that Rickie needed.
A change in the way he trained and an vast improvement to his diet saw Rickie’s career rocket. Southampton climbed through the divisions, eventually winning promotion back to the Premier League with Rickie’s goals playing a crucial part in The Saints’ success.
A goal on his Premier League debut meant he joined a select group of players to score in all four league divisions.
2013 marked a momentous year for the striker. On the same day that his wife gave birth to his daughter Bella, Rickie received a call from Southampton boss Mauricio Pochettino to tell him he’d been called up the England squad. He made his debut in a friendly against Scotland at Wembley shortly after and it proved to be a fairytale encounter for the former Silkman.
Coming on as a substitute for Wayne Rooney, Rickie scored with his first touch to secure a 3 - 2 victory and with that, he secured his place within the hearts of the nation.
Inclusion in the England squad for the 2014 World Cup followed, along with a dream move to Liverpool - the club that had rejected him as a youngster. However, sacrificing a First Team place to sit on the bench as a backup striker proved to be the wrong decision for Rickie and one that led to him falling out of love with the game.
After spending just twelve months at Anfield, Rickie moved to West Bromwich Albion on a two year contract. Although he scored twice on his debut, Lambert struggled to win back a regular First Team place and joined Cardiff City the following year.
Rickie then suffered a serious leg injury, which led to a frustratingly long absence from the team. Other injuries followed to unquestionably hamper his form and these led him into leaving the The Bluebirds in 2017, with his retirement from the game announced shortly afterwards.
He was awarded the Sir Tom Finney Award for his outstanding contribution to the sport in April this year and will undoubtedly be remembered by football fans up and down the country for his natural eye for goal.
Ricky will always be viewed with a great deal of affection by the Silkmen faithful - not only for how is career progressed after leaving the Moss Rose, but also for the tenacious and defiant performances which he put in whilst wearing the hallowed blue shirt.