Rickie Lambert admitted that Saints’ performance at Anfield has erased any doubts he had about how his former club would do this season.

The striker came on as a late substitute against his old side on Sunday, as his new team, Liverpool, snuck a 2-1 opening-day win.

The scoreline did not do Saints’ display justice, however, with Ronald Koeman’s men unfortunate not to have earned at least a point.

Lambert confessed that, following a summer of upheaval that saw a number of first-team stars – including himself – leave St Mary’s, he was unsure of the club’s prospects this season.

But, having seen them up close, he now expects them to have a good campaign.

“Like everyone, I wasn’t too sure,” he told the Daily Echo.

“I speak to the lads on a regular basis and they’ve got nothing but praise for the new manager in charge, but until you see them you’re not really sure.

“But, after what I’ve seen, I think they’re going to be just fine.

“If they can carry on that performance in the next few games they’re going to pick up some points.”

Lambert added: “I’m not just saying it – I was very impressed. I thought Southampton were excellent.

“They grew in the game and I thought second half they were putting us under pressure and were unlucky to not go 2-1 up maybe.”

Lambert confessed it had been an odd experience to play against the team he served with such distinction for five seasons.

“It was strange to come on against your old teammates and against your old club,” said the 32-year-old.

“Obviously, I had an objective in my mind and I had a job, and I acted professional, but it was a bit weird.

“I haven’t had many situations like that in my career, but you just try and be as professional as you can.

“The main objective was to try and get a goal. That was the main thing going through my head.

“But it was weird, especially sitting next to Kelvin (Davis) in the dugout, and seeing the lads again. It was nice seeing everyone.”

Lambert also explained that he was touched by the reception he received from the travelling Saints fans, who cheered his name before kick-off, as well as when he was brought on, and applauded him off after the match.

“Obviously, it was special from the Liverpool fans, making my debut – my dream – and it was special from the Southampton fans,” he said.

“I thought they showed a lot of respect to me and appreciation and I really appreciate that.

“I tried to show it back when I left the pitch. I’ve got nothing but respect for Southampton, and the fans especially.”

Unlike Lambert, there was a frosty reception from the Saints supporters for Dejan Lovren, who left for Liverpool in a £20m deal this summer and who started Sunday’s match.

The centre half was booed throughout by the visiting fans, who remain unhappy at some of the comments he publicly made while the Reds were trying to sign him.

In a separate interview, Lambert expressed some surprise that the anger was directed at players such as Lovren, and not more on the club’s board, although it is doubtful they will share his view that they have escaped without criticism.

“A few of the players who have left have took a bit of stick and they’ll take it – that’s football,” he said.

“It’s been surprising that it’s all been the players and none on the owners.”

Lambert added: “There’s obviously a reason why the gaffer (Mauricio Pochettino) went and I think that was the moment that I think it became clear to the players what the ambition of the club was going to be.”