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May 30, 2014

Dream come true

Rickie Lambert has agreed to join Liverpool.
Rickie Lambert has agreed to join Liverpool.

After two fairly impressive seasons in the top flight with Southampton, Rickie Lambert is about to join his boyhood heroes. It's the kind of move that Liverpool used to be renowned for -- swift, surprising and financially sound.

Many fans said at the end of last season that a very poor defensive record was the major concern that needed to be addressed and yet there was always a suspicion that Brendan Rodgers would throw the rule book out of the window. The persistent links with another Southampton star, Adam Lallana, merely confirmed this.

- Lambert: Saints star set for move

- Scout's Notebook: Emre Can next in?

There have been many discussions about the back four, whether they were merely competent or were simply not being coached and organised to the required standard. As with many football queries it's probably a mix of both and because the initial transfer moves are concerned with midfield creators and forwards that doesn't mean that's the end of Liverpool's spending by any stretch of the imagination.

The move for Lambert certainly addresses a nagging concern that some have; namely what happens whenever something untoward happens to either Luis Suarez or Daniel Sturridge? Frankly, the times were few when the Reds' boss had to look to his bench for inspiration in the middle of a match but when that occurred, the likes of Victor Moses and Iago Aspas hardly inspired confidence.

Lambert's stats were immediately all over social media like a rash. He achieved double figures in goals and assists, just like his Liverpool counterparts. His career story certainly has notable comparisons with another short-term Anfield hero, John Aldridge.

There are the humble lower-league beginnings and the latter-day place in the top flight thanks to promotion -- Aldridge with Oxford and Lambert with Southampton -- and even a belated international call-up, though Aldridge had his Irish grandmother to thank for that. There's also the small matter of penalty expertise and a fanatical devotion to the club which is entirely unmotivated by a pay packet.

Like all transfers there is always a chance of failure. The one truly uplifting signal from this move is the difference between this one and the Andy Carroll deal. A lot has been learned in a short space of time and while the Newcastle striker's move ended up costing the club a whopping 20 million pounds loss, here is a player who doesn't cost anything like as much but can offer an alternative to the current strikers. In Carroll's case, that also required the purchase of a free kick expert, Charlie Adam, and a supplier of crosses in Stuart Downing.

Another comparison has been with Peter Crouch, a player who many thought would not fit into the Liverpool style under Rafa Benitez but ended up as an important component of his squad and eventually much loved by the fans. So much so that his absence from the starting line-up of the 2007 Champions League final was considered a major gaffe by Benitez and if it sounds fanciful to suggest Lambert may play a similar role for Rodgers in two years' time, stranger things have happened in football. Whatever happens, his addition will definitely improve the squad.

There's that word again, "squad". As Lambert is already a Premier League star and an England international, it must be tempting for some supporters to shrug a little and moan "is that it?" but it's not even June yet; there are many weeks to go before the transfer window closes.

Goal scoring was hardly Liverpool's biggest concern last season -- far from it -- so this really ought to be considered as a tiny embellishment of the current team. If it fails it will hardly register on the Richter scale. If it comes off, it could pay rich dividends in a season that will present many problems for a young coach thrown into the deep end with a major fixture increase.

It's sad that a good club like Southampton appear to be being picked apart after being one of the stories of last season but it's great not to hear people uttering that phrase "sell-on value" -- one of the most dreadful aspects of modern football.

Elsewhere, it's great to see a boyhood Red get the chance he must have dreamt of a thousand times but probably thought had passed him by.

The presence of a true supporter in the team is just another bright point in a year that provided many.

Welcome home, Rickie.