STEVEN Gerrard said he enjoyed every minute of Wednesday’s England v Scotland clash – the first between the countries in 14 years – likening it to a local derby.
Although officially a friendly, the contest had the intensity of a competitive fixture. There was plenty of hostility, with the respective anthems booed by opposition supporters, before underdogs Scotland twice took the lead, only to fall to a 3-2 defeat.
“I thought the atmosphere was superb,” said England captain Gerrard. “When the national anthems were sung the hairs on my neck were standing up.
“It was a fantastic game to play in, everything I expected – good atmosphere, high tempo, a few nice tackles and a derby feel. It was a good game, good experience.”
Gerrard was pleased England twice responded from going behind before Rickie Lambert scored the decisive goal with his first touch in international football, a header from a Leighton Baines corner.
“It’s nice to get a win, of course,” Gerrard added. “It’s disappointing to concede a few goals. I thought we gifted them the first goal and they scored the second goal against the run of play. I thought the team showed great character and belief to get back into it and everyone’s smiling after the win because it was a competitive game.
“The Scottish were up for it, they wanted to beat us and, fortunately, we got the win. I think we get confidence and belief in the win. I think we showed, even if we go behind and make a couple of mistakes, we’re capable and we’ve got the players to recover.
“We played some good stuff at times and I thought there was a lot of positives. And, of course, Rickie getting the winner, which was fantastic for him. He gives us another option up top moving into the important games.”
Gerrard believes Lambert’s fairytale story from lower league journeyman to Wembley hero shows aspiring youngsters that anything is possible.
Lambert, a 31-year-old former Blackpool, Macclesfield, Stockport, Rochdale and Bristol Rovers striker made his debut in the 67th minute against Scotland, replacing Wayne Rooney, and, three minutes later with his first touch, headed the decisive goal.
“Rickie’s a great example to young kids,” Gerrard said. “Any young kid watching, who is starting at the bottom, you’ve just got to believe and work hard. You can work all the way up to the top, make your debut and score for England. It’s a fantastic story.”
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain played alongside Lambert, who spent the early part of his career at a beetroot factory as he tried to earn a professional contract, at Southampton before moving to Arsenal.
“I’m absolutely delighted for Lambo,” Oxlade-Chamberlain said. “When I was at Southampton with him I was a young lad coming through, I remember how good he was to me and all the encouragement he gave towards me. The way his career has gone and the way he’s worked up, he’s such a humble man. He’s the nicest bloke in the world. If anyone deserved that, Rickie Lambert deserved it. I was absolutely delighted for him.”
Another former Saints forward anticipates Lambert can be a hit for England in future. Arsenal winger Theo Walcott said: “When you come up the leagues it’s so difficult.
“He’s showed he can do it in the Premier League week in, week out. He’s a different target for us. I think he’s going to cause a lot of defenders a lot of havoc this season, for England as well. If he scores like that, it’s something to look forward to.”
Lambert savoured the moment and vowed to strive for more of them in international football.
“If that’s the only moment I’m going to have in an England shirt – hopefully not – I couldn’t have wished for it to have been any better,” Lambert said. “That’s my first one. I’m going to try to make it more in the future. Definitely. It was my first touch. It’s probably the best header I’ve headed in my life.”