Former Blackpool striker Rickie Lambert fulfilled a dream by scoring with his first touch for England and with the best header of his life.
It was Roy of the Rovers stuff from the Southampton targetman as he converted Leighton Baines’ corner for the decisive strike in a 3-2 defeat of Scotland at Wembley.
Lambert said: “It was my first touch. It’s probably the best header I’ve headed in my life. I saved it for the right time. It was a terrific ball by Bainsey, I managed to lose my marker and he put it exactly where I wanted it.”
The Liverpudlian was shown the door by the Seasiders at the age of 18, having made only three appearances.
He went on to work in a beetroot factory to make ends meet while playing for Macclesfield, before his rise through the ranks eventually took him to St Mary’s, the Premier League and an international call-up at the age of 31.
“If that’s the only moment I’m going to have in an England shirt – hopefully it isn’t – I couldn’t have wished for it to have been any better.
“I’ve dreamed for it to go like that for a long time and for it to have gone like that was a dream come true.
“I’ve tried to enjoy it, but my focus was to try and do well. I’m thankful for it to have gone like that.”
And Lambert confirmed: “It was my first touch. It’s probably the best header I’ve headed in my life.
“I saved it for the right time. It was a terrific ball by Bainsey, I managed to lose my marker and he put it exactly where I wanted it. The atmosphere was superb. For that to be my first (England game) is unbelievable.”
Lambert returns to club duty with Saints against West Brom on the opening weekend of the Barclays Premier League season.
“That’s my main focus now, to do well for Southampton,” the veteran added.
“That’s my first one. I’m going to try to make it more in the future. Definitely.”
England manager Roy Hodgson saluted the “fairytale” debut by Lambert, less than three minutes after coming off the bench in the second half to replace Wayne Rooney.
Hodgson admitted Lambert could have played himself into his World Cup qualifying squad with his spectacular 25-minute cameo.
“It’s satisfying that it was won by a fairytale goal from Rickie Lambert,” said Hodgson. “He’s been a breath of fresh air while with us, so happy to be part of the squad. What a wonderful story that he crowned it with the winning goal.
“He could have gone away with the match ball, with his shot against the post and another that had to be palmed away. But maybe he has to be happy with one goal and he’ll save a few others for a later date.”
Blackpool keeper Matt Gilks was an unused substitute for Scotland.
Blackpool’s Craig Cathcart played the full 90 minutes in Northern Ireland’s 1-0 victory over Russia in last night’s World Cup qualifier.
Manager Michael O’Neill hailed a “special night” at Windsor Park after waiting 20 months to taste success in the international arena, a period that has seen him oversee five draws and four defeats.
But the former Shamrock Rovers boss was able to reflect on a hugely satisfying performance in Belfast, with Martin Paterson’s 43rd-minute header ensuring a richly-deserved win over a Russia side ranked 93 places higher than Northern Ireland and managed by former England boss Fabio Capello.
“It was a great occasion for us and very satisfying for me personally,” said O’Neill.
An offside flag denied Paterson a second, set up by Cathcart.