Adkins backs Lambert to succeed
Southampton manager Nigel Adkins has backed talisman Rickie Lambert to flourish in the Barclays Premier League this season.
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The striker made his top-flight debut aged 30 last weekend, having previously plied his trade in the Football League for his entire career.
There were question marks over whether Lambert could make the step up, just like there had been last summer when he made his Championship debut, but he responded in some style last weekend, scoring four minutes after coming on as a second-half substitute at reigning champions Manchester City.
Adkins believes his strike in the 3-2 defeat at the Etihad Stadium bodes well for the frontman, whose attributes he believes will prove effective in the Premier League.
"What a super goal and I think he will grow in confidence," the Saints boss said ahead of tomorrow's clash with Wigan.
"He has played against some real top defenders there and physically he has dealt with that challenge ever so well.
"He gives a dimension to the football team that has served us well over the last few years.
"Obviously the pace of the game now in the Barclays Premier League is there, but he has got a quick brain.
"He scores all types of goals so he will always be a goalscoring threat as long as we keep getting him in and around the areas to do that.
"I think you will only find out if you're good enough when you're given those opportunities.
"I know he has worked very hard on his game and his body."
Adkins' team selection raised many eyebrows at City as he chose to start Lambert on the bench and named 17-year-old James Ward-Prowse in the starting line-up.
Asked for his rationale for the choices, he said: "We have 37 games to go and every game is going to be a challenge.
"I watched Manchester United against Everton the other night and who would have thought Danny Welbeck would start on the left wing?
"I think the big thing is now in this division there is going to be a lot of teams who play different formations, a lot of teams that try and get one-on-ones and play players in different positions, utilising the squad of players they have got.
"It is up the manager to come up with that and pick the right players against the opposition he is going to play."
Like Welbeck, Adkins chose to play a striker on the left flank at City as summer signing Jay Rodriguez made his debut as a winger.
"I'd like to think we have intelligent players who can play in several different areas," he said.
"Ultimately when you've got the ball, everyone's an attacker. And when you haven't got the ball, everyone is a defender.
"Again, it is giving yourself a situation to try and control the game with the football, get one-one-one duels and see if you can get a mismatch somewhere on the pitch to see if you can get yourself an opportunity to score."
Rodriguez, who arrived from Burnley for a club-record £6million fee, insists he does not mind being played on the flank and relishes the challenge of pitting his wits against the best.
"I played there in my first year at Burnley," the striker said. "I played in that role as I like to try and cut in and I will play in any position.
"Obviously playing is a great feeling, but I will work hard at that position and hopefully cut inside, try link up the play and hopefully it will work.
"The manager set out the formation he thinks will be best and we worked on it all pre-season.
"I think it has done well and obviously with the game on Sunday and pre-season it worked well so I think it is something we all need to work on."