ALAN Shearer has backed Saints hotshot Rickie Lambert to be a hit in the Premier League next season.

After a career spent entirely in the lower leagues, Lambert will at last get a chance to test himself at the elite level of English football when the new campaign begins.

Whether the 30-year-old striker can translate his sensational scoring form of the past few years into the top flight is likely to be one of the big topics of debate around St Mary’s this summer.

But he has already received the seal of approval from Shearer – the Premier League’s all-time leading scorer.

The legendary former Saints striker admits Lambert, who has netted 88 times in just three years at St Mary’s, will find goals much harder to come by now.

But he believes the club’s current star targetman will still prove to be an effective force in the top division – as long as Saints can provide him with the necessary service.

“He has scored the goals last season to help them get up,” said Shearer, referring to the 31 times Lambert struck across all competitions in 2011/12.

“Can he score goals in the Premier League? I don’t see any reason why not, if they can get the service to him, which is key.

“It will be a lot more difficult than it has been for him, but I don’t see why not.

“Once a goalscorer always a goalscorer.”

Shearer came through the ranks at The Dell, scoring 43 goals in 158 appearances, before Blackburn paid a then British record sum of £3.6m to prise him away in 1992.

Although it is now 20 years since he was a Saint, the club still holds a place in the 41-year-old’s heart.

And Shearer, a pundit on the BBC’s Match of the Day highlights show, is looking forward to seeing a lot more of them next season.

“I’m delighted (they will be back in the Premier League),” he said, before going on to praise the work done by manager Nigel Adkins, who has guided the team to back-to-back promotions.

“I’ve seen them a couple of times live last season and the manager has done a fantastic job and they have a centre-forward in Rickie Lambert who has scored goals wherever he has been.

“I’m looking forward to them enjoying Premier League football.”