rickie lambert

Rickie Lambert only made his England debut last August[GETTY]

So, a year ago, he pledged his footballing allegiances to New Zealand, home of the All Blacks, the white fearn and that famous flightless bird, the Kiwi.Unable to break through into the England squad last season despite being Southampton’s top scorer once again and one of the leading English marksmen in the Premier League, Lambert posed with the shirt of New Zealand for the cameras.

When Southampton fans studied the picture more carefully, however, the shirt did not carry Lambert’s usual No. 7 but the No. 1, and above it was the name ‘April’.

It was April 1st, and Lambert was happy to go along with the Saints’ April Fool’s Day joke for their supporters.

Twelve months on, the idea of Lambert playing for England is no joke. In fact, the 32-year-old striker who has played in all four divisions is almost certain to make Roy Hodgson’s World Cup squad.

But a year ago, Lambert concedes he thought his chances had all but gone. Not selected for the friendly against Brazil and the World Cup qualifiers against Montenegro and San Marino, he decided to go along with Kiwi caper.

 rickie lambert

Lambert hopes his fine form can see him earn a place in the World Cup squad [GETTY]

He said: “I did it not because I’d given up on my England chances, but there were a couple of squads just before that where they basically took just two strikers so I didn’t think I was going to get a call-up and I thought I’d missed my chance a bit, so that was kind of why I did it.”I wasn’t taking the mickey out of the situation – I didn’t mean it like that, I just thought it would be a good joke.”

Who was laughing four months later? Lambert, who in August won his long-awaited first England cap as a substitute against Scotland and scored the winning goal at Wembley.

Lambert has won three more caps since and his form with Saints this season has put him on the short-list for Brazil.

So did his Kiwi prank alarm England boss Hodgson so much that he called up Lambert?

“Who knows, it might have helped, but I’d like to think the call up was down to what I had done the previous season,” added Lambert.

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