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Broken China a small price to pay for Lambe

16 December 2015

Club News

Broken China a small price to pay for Lambe

16 December 2015

Flying crockery was the norm in Reggie Lambe's Bermudan household when the football-mad youngster got together with his brother.

Growing up on the Caribbean island of Bermuda, he and elder sibling Kevin loved nothing better than to start an impromptu game of one-on-one whenever they could get away with it behind mum Renita’s back – meaning for a handful of broken plates and ornaments. 

Thankfully, the odd telling off turned out to be a small price to pay for the now 24-year-old, as those kickabouts have paved the way for a professional career in English football, via spells in North America and mainland Europe.

It is an intriguing cross-Atlantic journey that has seen the tricky winger rub shoulders with the likes of David Beckham and Thierry Henry in the Major Soccer League – and learn a few Swedish chat up lines!

“Growing up I used to watch my brother so I always wanted to play too, which started the games in the house,” explains Lambe. “I don’t think my mum was very pleased about the breakages at the time, but I think she’s forgiven me for it now with how things have turned out.

“I started when I was five and I used to play for a club called Dandy Town Hornets, which was only two minutes from my house (and, incidentally, where Huddersfield striker Nahki Wells started out). “We were
driving past once and I said I wanted to have a go and play, so mum stopped the car, turned around and took me to sign on there and then.

“It was just a local club team and I played there for nine years. I was a central midfielder for a long time and it was only when I came to England that I moved out to the wing.

“It was when I played for the Bermudan Under-15s team that I got my big break. The coach there started a new club, whom I joined, and it was while with them on a tour to Holland that I was spotted by an Ipswich scout.

“Bermuda doesn’t have a professional league, although some of the top players did play for a team in America for a while but I think that side, the Bermudan Hogges, has disbanded now. I was fortunate enough to make my debut for the Bermuda senior side when I was just 16, which was a real eye opener to see how those top players conducted themselves.”

Lambe joined Ipswich in 2009 and played for the youth and reserve squads before eventually making his Tractor Boys debut in a League Cup clash with Shrewsbury Town.

He followed that up with a first Football League appearance as a substitute against Middlesbrough.

Even so, as a talented teenager, he found the transition to life in East Anglia tough at first, so was thankful to be given a helping hand by arguably Bermuda’s most famous football export in the shape of Shaun Goater.

After being released by Manchester United, the burly striker scored freely at Rotherham, Bristol City, Reading and Southend, but is probably best remembered for his spell at Manchester City where he helped
the Blues rise from what is now League One back to the Premier League.

Lambe adds: “When I first came over here I did have a chat about what it was going to be like because I didn’t know what to expect and I was still quite young.

“Shaun had a football camp back home, where I knew him from, and it was good for him to be able to give me some insight. The best thing he told me was to make sure that I got myself known and wasn’t too laid back about it all, which I can be sometimes.”

While adjusting to the high-octane world of the English game, Lambe saw Jim Magilton replaced by Roy Keane as Ipswich boss – and soon felt the wrath of the Irishman on more than one occasion, which he insists was only the former Manchester United skipper ‘trying to get the best out of him’.

But despite working hard to make a meaningful breakthrough – which included a seven-game loan spell at Bristol Rovers – the fleet-of-foot wideman struggled to make headway and eventually moved on to Canadian club Toronto FC.

It was there that he came up against Beckham during the former England captain’s MLS days, although his mum took more delight in the gift Lambe was able to secure after playing against Thierry Henry’s New York Red Bulls side.

“It was fantastic to play against David Beckham – just to see how he went about things on the pitch,” he recalls. “I was probably a little bit star-struck, but at the same time I could really appreciate his ability. 

“Henry is my mum’s favourite player as she is a big Arsenal fan – she worshipped him – it was great to be able to get his shirt after the game and give it to her. It was a different way of playing in the US to in England and I enjoyed the time I had there.”

The next stop for Lambe was Swedish club Nyköpings BIS, where he not only had to learn another culture, but also anticipated having to overcome the language barrier. Fortunately, however, he quickly discovered that the Scandinavians’ reputation for speaking excellent English was upheld by his team-mates.

He smiles: “It wasn’t really an issue at all in the end because all the other players spoke English and I was also out there with a Canadian player who I knew from my time in the MLS and we had lots to talk about.

“I can’t really remember any of the Swedish phrases now and I think the only few we learned were to chat girls up!”

It was on his departure from Scandinavia that Lambe first appeared on the radar in North Nottinghamshire, first joining the Stags on an extended trial,though he was not signed on immediately because of what
the player describes as ‘technical issues’.

However, that was rectified in September 2014 when he agreed a sixth-month contract that was eventually extended until the end of the season on the back of some encouraging performances and vitally important goals.

He scored five times in 34 appearances during 2014-15, with his strike in the crucial six-pointer at home to Tranmere Rovers – who eventually went down with Cheltenham – proving particularly memorable for Stags’ fans.

“It was tough for the team, being in a relegation battle as we were last season, but we worked hard to stay up and credit had to go to everyone for doing that. “The goal against Tranmere is one of my best moments at Mansfield so far because of what it meant for everyone. 

The manager said before the game it was a chance for someone to make themselves into a hero and I was glad it was me on that occasion.

“This season we are definitely playing more football and that suits me because I know we are going to be in possession a lot more and I will get more of the ball.”

Under manager Adam Murray, Mansfield sit seventh in the table with 32 points from 20 games ahead of this afternoon’s game with Leyton Orient, largely on the back of an excellent away record that has brought six victories so far.

That has brought reported interest from Walsall in the Stags’ boss, which does not surprise Lambe, even if he knows the club’s home form needs to improve if a play-off challenge is likely to be maintained.

He says: “The manager brought me in for his first game against Plymouth, which gave me a confidence boost, and I think he has done an excellent job since then, so I’m not surprised other clubs have been interested.

“He’s got the team playing some good football and believing that we can go places this season. In fact we are probably ahead of where we thought we might be at this point.

“Now we are here we want to keep it going and that means getting things right at home. If we had a choice we want to be winning more games in front of our own fans, and we hope we can start to do that.”

After the break in the schedule at the start of December, Lambe has had time to indulge in his hobby of playing badminton, which ‘helps keep him fit and sharp for games,’ and see Englishman Gary Neville take
over at his favourite boyhood club, Valencia.

After a hectic schedule, he feels the break from football action came at just the right time for Mansfield ahead of what is always a busy Christmas period.

“Of course we would have loved a decent run in the FA Cup, but having gone out it has been good to get a bit of extra rest and work on things that we did so well defensively earlier in the season,” insists Lambe.

“That will be tested against Leyton Orient because they are a good side who score goals, but we feel we can match them and start to put some wins together at home.”

Mansfield followers will certainly hope so. They won’t want ambitions of promotion shattered as easily as Lambe’s family china.

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