The new season is almost upon us. It is a time when teams begin to look ahead at what next season might bring. It is a time when the cheque books tends to come out.
Some teams will be looking to mount a promotion charge, either outright or via the play-off places. Others might be looking to improve on performances that saw them flirt with relegation last time out.
In times of austerity, money tends to be tight and this is even more so the further down the league structure you go. At League One level, where money isn’t as abundant as it is in the higher tiers of football, it is often the case that teams will be looking to balance out players in terms of age, experience, calibre and potential cost.
Here sides will be looking to pick up a player as a ‘bargain’, paying nothing for the transfer but maybe looking to offset this against the wages that would need to be paid out.
Here are five free agents who last played in the Sky Bet Championship who would take League One by storm – starting with an 11-cap former England striker.
Rickie Lambert (striker)
Lambert is 35, but that shouldn’t be used as an excuse by any side in League One looking for a more than reliable striker in front of goal. For a player of Lambert’s class, age is not a factor these sides should be unduly concerned about.
Lambert began his career at Blackpool, coming through the Under-18s and eventually playing for the first team before a July 2001 move saw him transferred to Macclesfield, where he played one season before a £380,000 transfer to Stockport at the start of July 2002. He featured in 97 games for Stockport, scoring 18 goals before being given a free transfer to Rochdale in 2005.
Lambert featured in 64 games for Rochdale, scoring 28 times and providing 15 assists. Lambert was snapped up by Bristol Rovers, who paid £250,000 to take him to the West Country. Lambert was a hit at Rovers, playing 143 games and netting 55 times – this pricking the interest of Premier League side Southampton, where his League One escapades eventually turned into a Premier League adventure.
Lambert was bought for £1 million at the beginning of July 2009, playing 90 games in League One with Southampton, scoring 51 goals and providing 26 assists. Take it a league higher, Ricky Lambert featured in one Championship campaign for the Saints, scoring 27 times and laying on 14 assists. Lambert’s goalscoring continued in the Premier League – the accomplished striker hitting 28 goals and providing 18 assists in 75 top-tier games.
At 35, yes Ricky Lambert is entering the final stretch of an illustrious career, but he’d be a great signing for a League One side aiming to gain promotion. He has played 211 games at this level, scoring 99 goals and assisting 29 others.