Rickie Lambert is vowing to prove to Roy Hodgson he is good enough for a place in the England squad.
The striker converted his 11th goal of the season in Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Wigan, once again making him the joint top English scorer in the Premier League.
Lambert was overlooked by national team manager Hodgson last week when he selected the squad for Wednesday’s friendly against Brazil at Wembley.
When asked if he was disappointed, the forward said: “I was actually. I’m not saying I was expecting it – I wasn’t expecting it. But I was hoping.”
Hodgson named five strikers for the Brazil game, but that was down to four last night as Spurs’ Jermain Defoe was withdrawn after suffering an ankle injury at West Bromwich Albion.
That left Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge and Theo Walcott as Hodgson’s fit strikers, and the manager had not announced who, if anyone, would replace Defoe.
In addition, Sturridge was injured playing for Liverpool yesterday and will almost certainly be ruled out as well.
Andy Carroll could be a contender after marking his return from a nine-week injury absence with West Ham’s winner against Swansea at the weekend.
If a call-up does ever come, Lambert hopes it is not based purely on the form he has shown this season – but because Hodgson believes he is a talented enough player to warrant a selection.
He said: “It wasn’t to be, but hopefully I can show until the end of the season that I am good enough.
“Not just that I deserve a chance, but that I am good enough.
“If it comes it comes, if it doesn’t it doesn’t.
“Obviously, I’m just going to try and help Southampton, try and score goals and try and push Southampton up the league.
“I’m not going to focus on the England squad too much, but, like I said, I am hoping I can get a chance.
“But I’m not going to dwell too much on it, because my priority is Southampton.”
Lambert turns 31 later this month, and with Hodgson looking to introduce some younger players into the national set-up, there has been a suggestion that the striker’s age could have counted against him.
However, the prolific front man does not believe that it is a barrier stopping him from representing his country.
“I don’t think my age is a hindrance,” he said. “I’ve just got to try and prove to him that I’m good enough.
“I don’t want to really get a chance just because I deserve it, but because he thinks I’m good enough as well, and that’s what I have to try and prove.
“I’ve got quite a lot of games left to try and prove it.”
Lambert also received the backing of Reading striker Adam Le Fondre, another free-scoring Englishman, who has bagged ten league goals this term.
“He’s a quality player, Rickie,” said the 26-year-old yesterday. “I was surprised actually that he wasn't in the England squad.
“He’s a really good player, he’s done a lot of hard work and come through the leagues like myself.
“He’s got a rocket right foot, and he’s brilliant with his head as well.
“He is a top-class player and I am honestly surprised that he wasn’t in the England squad.”