Rickie Lambert admits he started to lose love for football after securing his dream move to Liverpool.
The 35-year-old recently retired from the game after struggling from unyielding injuries in the latter stages of a career that cemented his name in the headlines at one point.
Lambert played a pivotal role in guiding Southampton to the Premier League in 2012, and continued his impressive form in the top flight before earning a move to Anfield and securing a place in England’s World Cup squad in the summer of 2014.
In fulfilling a boyhood ambition to play for Liverpool, the forward risked his game time and accepted an unfamiliar role as a backup.
Looking back, he admits it was a sacrifice that altered his self-belief.
“If I’m honest it was like that for the last three years, after I left Southampton,” he told the Daily Mail.
“I didn’t play much at Liverpool and it was the same at West Brom and then Cardiff.”
“I was getting well paid but I never started playing football for the money. And when I decided to go to Liverpool I sacrificed a regular first-team place and that was when I started to fall out of love with it.”
“I never should have accepted being on the bench, even though Brendan Rodgers had made it clear to me I would be back-up for Suarez and Sturridge.”
“I was never as quick or as technically good as the best players, but in my own head, when it came to actually playing, I could convince myself I was the best.”
“But when I joined up with England I felt lucky to be there, and it was the same at Liverpool. And when I look back now I realise I lost something mentally as a player, by allowing that to happen.”
In retrospect, it perhaps wasn’t the wisest move for a man who still had plenty to offer in England’s highest tier.
Nevertheless, it was a dream come true and the kind of ultimate reward to remind Lambert himself of the remarkable rise he had made over the years.
From working in a beetroot factory, to playing for Liverpool. It’s not a bad story, nor is a long time on the bench a low point.
Signing Lambert was, similarly, not the wisest move from Brendan Rodgers, but it was a move Reds grew to respect after seeing just how excited he was to be there and how dedicated he was to making the most of his time on Merseyside.
A couple of rough patches towards the end aside, there is an incredible career for the former England international to look back on with fond memories.
Happy retirement, Rickie.