England's Lambert is yet to reach his peak

The Northern Echo: England Paul Lambert takes on some refreshment during the training session at Urca Military Training Ground, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil England Paul Lambert takes on some refreshment during the training session at Urca Military Training Ground, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

MOST players show signs of decline in their thirties, but England forward Rickie Lambert believes he has yet to reach his peak.

The 32-year-old's rise through the leagues has captured the imagination, with the fairytale taking another turn this month with his move to boyhood club Liverpool.

Furthermore, Lambert is the first player to go to a World Cup with England having made their first top-flight appearance after turning 30, which he hopes will act as inspiration to those plying their trade in the lower leagues.

The former Southampton striker, who won the first of six caps last August, is also hoping to prove age is just a number by impressing for years to come with club and country.

"My career has got better and my performances have got better," Lambert told BBC Radio 5 Live. "I am hoping there are a few more years of improvement yet.

"I am not saying that I am going to be there at the next World Cup, but I'm hoping that there are going to be more performances for England, definitely.

"I am going to hopefully improve again from the next level I've gone up to."

Meanwhile, England will send a member of their backroom staff to inspect the pitch at the Arena Amazonia when they land in Manaus today.

Just three days before England begin their World Cup campaign against Italy in Manaus, the pitch inside the stadium appears to be in a shocking state.

The grass looks incredibly dry and yellow marks stretch across the pitch.

England are due to land in Manaus this morning and the Football Association has confirmed that one England coach will be sent to the stadium to see how it looks.

England will train on the pitch tomorrow, 24 hours before the Italy game.

The surface was in pristine condition when manager Roy Hodgson visited the city in February, prior to a FIFA workshop.

The Arena Amazonia, which holds 39,118 people, was constructed last year at an estimated cost of around £173million.

In a change to their itinerary, Hodgson's squad will train at their hotel in Manaus today, rather than at the FIFA-allocated training ground.

The FA insists this is consistent with protocol following a long flight.

England's charter jet will take four hours to travel from Rio to Manaus, which is located in the north-west of the country.

Unlike England, Italy will travel to Manaus one day before kick-off.

FIFA sources said the problems on the Manaus pitch had been caused by "excessive use of fertiliser" but that there was no threat to the match taking place.

Organisers are sending an expert to oversee intensive treatment to the pitch between Thursday and Saturday, but believe the problems are "largely cosmetic" with the worst area confined to one corner of the pitch.

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