First it was Gordon Watson, then Matthew Le Tissier, Egil Østenstad, James Beattie, Michael Svensson, Antti Niemi, Jhon Viáfara and Claus Lundekvam.
For the past year-and-a-half, though, Rickie Lambert has been my favourite Southampton player.
What an honour it was then to speak to him on Thursday (yes, I am a sports journalist but even we have our sporting heroes). The guy was genuine, honest and clearly family-driven. In essence, the antithesis of everything you expect from a modern day footballer.
We covered everything from his favourite film to his inability to cook, and from his frustration with golf to Dan Seaborne’s awful dress sense (“I think he must get hand me downs off his cousins”). Oh, and his love for Liverpool and admiration for Steven Gerrard.
Anyway, here for your delectation is what Rickie had to say about Saints.
Simon Peach: Firstly, how happy have you been with the progress made this season?
Rickie Lambert: “Very, very happy. Obviously it was not the best of starts – I’m not going to go into too much detail about what happened and that – but obviously with the team we had it was very frustrating that we were not doing as good as we could. So it was nice that we finally got a manager in and since he has come in I think we have steadily picked it up and we’re now showing everyone how good we are. I think we’re only going to get better as well.”
SP: So you are enjoying your football under Nigel Adkins?
RL: “Yeah, loving it mate, loving it. We’re playing some really good football.”
SP: You admitted earlier in the season that you were perhaps not on top form, but is it fair to say you are getting back to your scoring self?
RL: “Yeah, I think there was a lot of reasons why I didn’t [reach top form] at the time. It frustrated me when I was not scoring, but when I look back it was obvious why I wasn’t. There were injuries and I wasn’t able to get as fit as I could because I couldn’t train because the injuries I had meant I could only go straight into games, which obviously wasn’t the best preparation. But I knew sooner or later I would get back to my best. I still think there is a little bit more to come, but I’ve been pleased with my last few weeks’ contributions to the team. Hopefully they feel like I’ve really been helping them too.”
SP: You also seem to be striking up quite a potent partnership with Guly. Why do you feel you work well together?
RL: “I think I am starting to understand how he plays and he is starting to understand how I play, as well as the rest of the team and the league itself. Obviously it takes a bit of time for any partnership to work, especially when it’s a Brazilian who has been playing in Italy. To expect us to gel straight away would never work but we’re starting to look good now.”
SP: What are his best attributes?
RL: “His skill on the ball and his vision. I think he is a bit like me, he likes to come off and turn to create chances for others. I would say that is his best attribute.”
SP: And obviously Guly has just signed a permanent deal, how much of a boost is that to the club?
RL: “Guly has signed a new deal? I didn’t even know that. That’s brilliant news. There was talk a couple of weeks back that he might not even stay, but I think after speaking to him and the manager we all kind of knew he was going to sign so it’s good news that he signed the contract.”
SP: You say you spoke to him, is there a language barrier between you?
RL: “There was but he understands it now and I think he actually understands more then we realise. I think he likes to keep it that way, so I think he gets onto a lot of things.”
SP: Obviously players like Alex Chamberlain are being linked with moves, but does the dressing room pay any attention to it or does it effect any of the players?
RL: “No, not at all. We have a laugh about it when Alex is on Sky Sports and having his mug all over it saying all these clubs are interested. But he’s so down to earth and I think that is the best thing about him. He has got this skill, this pace and all of that, but I think most young lads when they play as many games as he has think they are already world beaters and don’t have to do anything. But I think he is one of the most down to earth young lads I’ve come across, which is good and I think will help him in the future.”
SP: How good is he?
RL: “He is the best young lad I have ever come across in my time. In my career of about 10 years he is by far the best young player. It is going to be hard keeping hold of him with the interest being shown in home, but hopefully we can keep him this season and he can help push us to promotion.”