Former Saints boss Alan Pardew has spoken of his pride at seeing Rickie Lambert lead the club back into the Premier League.

Pardew, who returns to St Mary’s tomorrow with Newcastle, was manager when the striker was signed from Bristol Rovers in 2009.

He has admitted before that it was a “hard sell” to convince chairman Nicola Cortese to sanction a £1m payment for Lambert.

But Pardew insisted he always had faith that the investment would prove to be a wise one.

“Rickie Lambert, who I took to the club, I am so proud of him,” said the Magpies boss.

“I always said he could be a Premier League player and he is proving it.

“I signed him at 28 from Bristol Rovers. Plenty had talked about him, but no-one went for him.

“I paid £1m for him and I said I thought he could take us to the Premier League, and he has proved me right, so I am pleased about that.”

Pardew will return to St Mary’s for the first time since he was sacked as Saints manager in August 2010.

In just over a year at the club, he led them from a ten-point deficit at the start of his first season to the brink of the League One play-offs, while also masterminding a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy success.

Pardew admitted yesterday, however, that he and Cortese “didn’t see eye-to-eye” and that he felt he was “harshly treated” at Saints.

Despite that, though, Pardew is relishing the trip back to his old club.

“I enjoyed my time there and I am looking forward to going back,” he said.

“There will be some memories because we won a trophy when I was there and we were minus-ten points and we built a side.

“It will be interesting to meet a few of the people there who I had great relationships with.

“There are some great players there who have done phenomenally well.

Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte, people like that, and Kelvin Davis, it will be nice to see those guys who are still in and around the team.

“They have made the transition well. They have acquitted themselves very well and are unlucky not to have won against the Manchester clubs on both occasions.”

Pardew added: “It’s nice to see that they got a great win (against QPR), and they will be buoyed by that. It’s a great atmosphere in that stadium.”