'Some Leeds fans wanted me out of the team' - How Bamford belatedly became a Premier League striking sensation
Patrick Bamford is something of an enigma at Leeds United.
When it comes to Bamford, though, the naysayers are rarelyfar away.
Long before promotion was secured, talk had already turned to which playersthe club could buy during the off-season to oust Bamford from his starting role, as it was felt that the 27-year-old did not have the required ability to thrive as a Premier League No.9.
Bamford, though, is made of sterner stuff than some will have you believe, and if his start to life back in the top flight is anything to go by, then he is far from being done when it comes to proving the doubters wrong.
He has also provided an assist and won a penalty for Marcelo Bielsa's team as he continues to repay the faith shown in him by the legendary Argentine tactician.
It was telling that, moments after scoring what turned out to be winning goal in Sunday's victory over Sheffield United, it was Bamford who appeared as the last line of defence as the Blades launched an attack in search of an equaliser.
Sapped of energy at full-time, Bamfordwas pictured sat red-faced in the middle of the Bramall Lane pitch as others around him made their way from the arena.
The coughing and spluttering that littered his various post-match interviews told the story of a player who has, and continues to, give everything to the cause, which is precisely why he is so important to Leeds' way of playing.
It is now almost nine years since the then-teenage Bamford was signed by Chelsea, after emerging as one of England's brightest young attacking talents at Nottingham Forest.
However, a failure to deliver at the highest level led many to believe that Bamford would finish his career regarded as an unfulfilled talent.
Following spells at Crystal Palace, Burnley, Norwich City and Middlesbrough, Bamford entered this season with a record of one goal in 27 Premier League appearances, though it is only fair to point out he averaged less than 25 minutes on the pitch in each of those games due to largely being used as a substitute.
A former winner of the Championship's Player of the Year prize back in 2014-15, many believed that Bamford was destined to fall into the category of players able to shine in the second tier while never being quite good enough to excel at the highest level.
In truth, his raw numbers during his two seasons with Leeds in the Championship did little to alter that view.
Bamford became Leeds' most expensive signing for 17 years when he arrived for an initial fee of £7 million ($9m) in the summer of 2018, but two separate knee injuries meant he was forced to miss half of the season.
Even when Bamfordwas fit and available, he was not always assured of a starting berth, with Kemar Roofe usually preferred up front.
However, after Roofe's sale to Anderlecht ahead of the 2019-20 campaign, Bamford took up the mantle of being Leeds' leading man as they aimed to put the disappointment of their play-off semi-final defeat behind them.
The results were mixed.
Despite netting 16 goals across the course of the campaign, Bamford really should have finished the seasonwith far more successful strikes to his name.
According toOpta, no player was presented withmore 'big chances' than Bamford (44) during the course of last season's Championship. Of those opportunies, Bamford failed to score on 34 occasions.
He also finished the campaign as the individualwith the lowest shot conversion rate (12.8 per cent) of any Championship player to score more than 15 goals.
That failure to regularly convert when well placed led a number of Leeds fans to question quite why Bamford continued to be included in the starting line-up, particularly during the first half of the season when Arsenal loanee Eddie Nketiah was waiting in the wings.
“Earlier this season, I would be lying in bed after a game and scrolling through Twitter, not even looking for myself, and would see some abuse,” Bamford told The I newspaper during the coronavirus-enforced lockdown that paused the season in the spring.
“My missus would say ‘just ignore it’, so I’ve got better at doing that. I’m quite laid-back, so it doesn’t affect me too much and I know in my own head whether I’ve played well and should have scored or not.”
What Bamford may have lacked when it came to finishing – and it must be said he has been far more clinical so far this season– he more than made up with through his work-rate off the ball.
Bielsa's team are defined by their fitness and constant pressing when out of possession, and no player encapsulates that more than Bamford.
A distant relative of Lord Anthony Bamford, the chairman of construction equipment manufacturer JCB, Bamford has been singled out for what some perceive to be a privileged upbringing.
He is fluent in a number of languages, can play the violin, piano and guitar, and turned down a scholarship at Harvard University to continue his football career having taken his A-Levels a year early.
While on loan at Burnley he even clashed with manager Sean Dyche, whom Bamford claims accused him of having "never had to work for anything".
That is something few, if any, at Leeds could accuse him of, and the selflessness which he has shown under Bielsa is now being rewarded in front of a worldwide audience.
"Some of the fans wanted me out of the team and it probably would have been easier for Marcelo to do that,” Bamford admitted. “But while I wasn’t scoring goals, I was bringing other things to the side and the fact he has stuck with me means a lot.
“Ultimately, you’re going to be judged on your goals, but there is more that a striker brings to the team, especially when you’re playing up front on your own."
That is something Leeds'record signing, Rodrigo Moreno, is currently learning, with the Spain international having to make do with a midfield role while Bamford occupies the central striker's position in Bielsa's favoured 4-1-4-1 formation.
Saturday's clash with Manchester City will again see Bamford leading the line as he aims to make it four goals in as many games, and having watched Pep Guardiola's side ship five to Leicester City last week, the ex-England Under-21 international will be licking his lips.
Source : goal.com
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