They were once teammates in League Two, but Rickie Lambert and Grant Holt will be up against each other in the Premier League tomorrow night when Norwich visit Saints.

Lambert and Holt struck up a memorable partnership earlier in their careers when they were together at Rochdale.

Steve Parkin was their manager at the time, bringing the forwards to Spotland for a combined total of £30,000.

The Bradford assistant boss will look on with pride tomorrow as Lambert and Holt, whose respective values have rocketed since their days together in the fourth tier, face each other for the first time in the top flight.

“No one is prouder than me to see what they have accomplished, and the way in which they have done it,” said Parkin.

“I am really pleased for them both, and they are really good lads as well.

“Sometimes they have dragged teams along with the ability they have got, and it is really nice for them to have made it to the top. They both deserve it.”

Parkin signed Holt in January 2004, then added Lambert just over a year later.

The pair were teammates for only 11 months, but scored 36 times between them in that period, before Nottingham Forest moved for Holt and Bristol Rovers signed Lambert.

“Grant had been in and out of the Sheffield Wednesday team. I had seen him in a couple of reserve games and thought he was a handful, to say the least,” said Parkin, recalling how he came across the two centre forwards that are expected to lead the lines for Norwich and Saints tomorrow.

“A little bit later, there was a change of manager at Stockport. Chris Turner went in there and Rickie was available.

“He had been playing as a midfielder most of his career, but I saw him as an ideal partner to Grant.”

Lambert, who had just turned 23 when he joined Rochdale, has previously credit Parkin for having “transformed” his career, as a result of converting him from a midfield player into a striker.

The 47-year-old added: “I’m very proud I had the opportunity to work with both of them, and also proud that I shoved Rickie up top, rather than playing him as a midfielder.”

As well as altering his position on the pitch, Parkin encouraged Lambert to make important changes off it.

“He wasn’t lazy, but he was such a gifted footballer that he found the physical side – the running side – quite difficult,” he said.

“We had to get the message across that, while he was never going to be a box-to-box player, the game was changing and players were getting fitter, and that’s what he had to do.

“He had to restrain himself from having a beer or two too often, and make sure that he ate properly. He also had to bring his physical stature up to speed, and he did exactly that.

“He changed his mentality, in terms of how he looked after himself.”

Parkin described both players as being “very different” when he had them at Rochdale, with Holt being more powerful and direct, while Lambert was a better technical player.

They were also opposite characters in terms of personality.

“Grant is obviously very outgoing and can be very loud on and off the pitch,” he said.

“Rickie, on the other hand, was quiet and unassuming for a man of his size.

“But both of them were really nice lads. They were good mates, and they developed a friendship. Even though they were different personalities, they got on very well on and off the pitch.”

There was one thing, however, that they had very much in common.

“They both have an unbelievable desire to score goals,” said Parkin.

“That’s given them the edge to get every ounce of ability out of their careers.

“As a manager or a coach, you are always looking for players to fulfil their potential, and squeeze every ounce out that they have got.

“They have both done that, and got right to the very top because of it.

“I would be lying if I said I thought they would both definitely play in the Premier League.

“I thought the Championship definitely was within the realms of their ability.

“But for those two to push themselves and their clubs – which they have done with their goals – to that level is absolutely fantastic.”

Holt, now 31, scored 15 Premier League goals for the Canaries last season and has converted three this term, while 30-year-old Lambert is Saints’ top scorer with five.

Parkin is proud of the role he played in the journeys of both players to the top flight, but insists it is the two players themselves who really deserve the credit for elevating themselves to that level.

“I’m delighted that I played a little part in their careers, and thrilled that they fulfilled their potential,” he said. “I’m sure they know I’m really delighted for them.

“They might have had a little help from me and a lot of other managers and coaches, but it is their own determination that has got them where they are now.”