Will Leeds United get more Bamford for their buck?
With a new Skybet Championship season breathing down his neck, Marcelo Bielsa can rest assured his new Leeds United squad has a clinical centre-forward to lead them into the new campaign. Patrick Bamford is now Leeds' top marksman but there’s a load of responsibility on the young Englishman's shoulders.
Player and club each have an agenda. Bamford intends a return to regular scoring. Leeds is hunting for a Premier league ticket. With harmonious objectives, the Whites overlooked Abel Hernandez and Matej Vydra to spend £7 million to pry Bamford away from Middlesbrough.
Chelsea paid nearly £2 million to bring Bamford to Stamford Bridge in January 2012. The future looked sunny at the time. The prodigy was poised to climb the English pyramid. However, anyone familiar with Chelsea's glass-ceiling youth policy could foresee the dead end Stamford Bridge represented. The loan spells were inevitable. Bamford went on many before choosing to go his own way. He carved himself a niche as a thriving Championship star. Boro fans remember him too well as the player who brought them to the brink of Premier League promotion in 2014/15 with 17 goals as the Championship's acknowledged best player.
Having made his name, he returned to fight for a place at Stamford Bridge. Three unsuccessful, goal-barren Premier League loan stints with Crystal Palace, Norwich City and Burnley followed. Four-and-a-half years after joining the 2012 European champions, Bamford still hadn’t made a senior first-team appearance for the club. He left Chelsea 'permanently' for Middlesbrough.
Boro were then in the Premier League, Bamford continued to struggle. He couldn’t nail down a starting position and featured in a paltry nine games. A solitary goal was all he could muster all season. Relegation followed. Aitor Karanka was sacked. Eventually, Tony Pulis took charge. Now on familiar terrain, Bamford returned 10 goals in 31 League appearances, pushing Boro to the playoffs.
Bamford's 12 strikes overall came while battling Adama Traore, Rudy Gestede, Britt Assombolonga and Ashley Fletcher for the main striker's role. Mostly, he was used as an impact sub or in a deeper role as a number 10. Pulis also tried him out on the wings a few times. The jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none situation didn't sit well with Bamford. Luckily, permanent doesn't mean the same thing in football as it does elsewhere.
“I’ve been needing to play up front and wanting to be the main man somewhere for a long time and Leeds have offered me that opportunity. So, it is really something I grabbed with both hands.” - Bamford.
Bamford is the Whites' biggest signing since Robbie Fowler in 2001. It signals intent. As the main marksman for Marcelo Bielsa’s side, Bamford will be expected to score double figures this term. The Championship is his territory.
Whether Bielsa chooses to play a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 system, his target man will be Patrick Bamford. He's done damage when given regular minutes. With a tactically astute manager calling the shots and a striker with killer instincts leading the line, Elland Road could be on its way to Premier League football next season.