‘Posh’ Patrick Bamford proves there is a different route to the top…

Date published: Sunday 29th August 2021 8:53 - John Nicholson

Patrick Bamford Leeds

Patrick Bamford is not your average footballer. And Johnny Nic is here to celebrate England’s latest call-up…


Who’s this then?
Patrick James Bamford is a 6’ 1” striker who plays for Leeds United and got his first England call-up this week. Born in Grantham, Leeds is, remarkably, the ninth club he’s played for. He’s played 299 club games so far and scored 105 goals.

He got his start at Nottingham Forest, playing a couple of games in 2011-12, turning down a place at Harvard to do so, and then being bought for £1.5 million by Chelsea. He was there for two seasons but never actually played for the blues before being sent out of loan, first to MK Dons in League One who he played 44 games for and did very well scoring 21 goals.

Next up came loans to Derby County for 23 games and eight goals. Then to Middlesbrough in 2015-16 in the Championship where he was very good indeed, scoring 19 across 44 games. We got very excited about him.

This performance took him into the Premier League with loans to Crystal Palace, Norwich and Burnley for whom he played a total of 22 games but didn’t score a single goal. This period was a fallow one for Patrick and he struggled to regain any sort of form. He went back to Boro for £5.5 million on a four-and-a-half-year deal, now in the top flight, but couldn’t find his shooting boots. Then, 54 games and 14 goals, later he was sold to Leeds for about £7million pounds, rising to £10million – a good bit of business for Boro it seemed at the time.

It was now the 2018-19 season. Since then he’s played 111 games for the whites and has scored 43 goals.

Those are the bald facts however, there’s a lot of interesting cultural ebbs and flows throughout Patrick’s career which have geared how he is viewed, treated and to an extent how he has played. He is, without doubt, middle-class. That this is so very rare in football is telling, in and of itself.

The class system in Britain is a complex, existential thing which is hard, if not impossible to assign facts to, but which nonetheless, we all know our position within. I’ve long thought it far from impossible that kids from some backgrounds may be put off being professional footballers in the UK precisely because of the hard time Bamford was given by the likes of Sean Dyche. If you read Pat Nevin’s book ‘The Accidental Footballer’ while it was a very different era, and Pat is from a very working class Glasgow family, anti-intellectualism (and I don’t actually mean intellectual, I just mean being interested in something other than football and being curious about other cultures and arts) was in the warp and weft of the game. He was treated like a weirdo. If you’re the weirdo because you like reading, listening to music and going to the theatre, as well as football, then we are in a dark place.

When interviewed, he’s not eaten the football cliches bible, speaks coherently and even seems able to use an adverb – a remarkably rare thing in British football. Maybe that’s what Dyche objected to.


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Why the love?
Somewhat against the usual trend he seems to have come good later in his career after a few stop-start years. When interviewed he is an articulate fella and from a relatively wealthy background. The son of an architect and a beauty therapist, he was privately educated, learned to play the violin, turned down a place at Harvard and speaks decent French. That made him standout. I do wonder if that has worked against him with some of English football’s chippy snobs.

Football certainly used to be quick to find anyone who isn’t an alpha male prepared to drink his own urine while standing naked in a casino in Thailand during a team bonding session, as suspiciously intellectual and effite and it’d be surprising if that attitude hadn’t completely evaporated. While he was on loan at Burnley, Dyche was not sympathetic, telling him he’d been born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Dyche even objected to him bringing his parents to see him signing on for the club! In the Dyche world, this is a bad thing. Later Bamford says Dyche told him he was “listening to too many people influencing you outside of football”.

Now, that sounds more like something the leader of a cult would say, doesn’t it? Listen to the Great Leader only. Perhaps this is why clubs have not trusted him with bigger jobs than Burnley. It seems an attitude rooted in a time that is not now. I bet Bamford enjoyed scoring the winner against Dyche at Elland Road last season and the 4- 0 win at Turf Moor. Yeah, suck on that, old boy.

Alan Pardew and Gary Monk, by all accounts, felt similarly. And they try and tell us that Britain is a classless society, eh.

Tony Pulis was different though. While his PFM credentials might have led us to think he’d follow the narrow-minded Dychian route, in fact he saw great potential in the lad, despite playing him on the right for Middlesbrough at first. Bamford credits the Welshman with instilling more aggression and physicality into his game that allowed him to play up top.

Marcelo Bielsa couldn’t have cared less what the player’s background was but did notice the lad was under a lot of pressure from fans who thought he was not good enough and appreciated the fact he didn’t shirk or hide from the ball.

In fact his Leeds career was dogged by those same accusations in his first season. He seemed to need a lot of chances to score and if you wanted someone to put away a one on one to save your life, Patrick was not the man who you’d pick to keep you alive. He took a lot of flak in the failed promotion season for lacking a killer instinct in front of goal.

He got to his mid-twenties with the ‘nearly man’ tag. Long touted as a great young striker in the making, it felt like he’d missed the boat somewhere along the line. Just another in a long list of promising players that came to nothing. At first it seemed as though his career would go the same way at Leeds, scoring just 10 in 25 in his first season. But Marcelo Bielsa had a good look at him, got hold of him and, even despite some initial fan hostility, knew he had a really good striker on his hands. He seemed to thrive in the high pressing all-energy environment. It suited him and it suited his game. In the promotion season, he just clicked. It all made sense suddenly.

But even so, there were doubters. Some felt he would struggle in the top flight, but in fact, the reverse was true. He wasn’t the first and won’t be the last player to play better with and against better players. His 17 goals in 38 games last season proves it. That’s his best goal-per-game season of his career and it came when he was 26 and 27.

Last season, his seven assists outperformed an xA of 3.39 but his 17 goal tally slightly underperforms his xG of 19.34. Lord knows what Dyche, Pardew and Monk might think of such stats.

Bamford Bielsa
What the people say
Bamford isn’t the sort of character that has people flocking to say how great he is. I sense there is even now a sense that he’s ‘not one of us’ and that plays against the natural affection a top striker would normally expect. Even so, some nice things have been said…

– He may not have played a minute for Chelsea whilst on our books but it is always nice to see a former player do well, especially when he was written off last season before it had even begun.

– He’s a good example of how not making the grade at one of the best clubs in England does not mean you are a failure as a footballer.

– Has had to overcome some deep rooted prejudice in the game regarding his posh upbringing. Which he has never hidden. Not necessarily a great goal scorer but a scorer of great goals.

– Another classic ‘not good enough for Tony Pulis player’ when he was at Boro. We should have built the team around him.

– The only England international who can also play a Bach fugue?

– Great player and would appear to have correct values. Breaks posh boy/private school image with his opinions on public matters


– Depends if your starting point is his natural ability or intelligence and application. He’s the player he is now because he’s pushed himself so hard to improve (under Bielsa’s expert tutelage), and is smart enough to have made massive strides. That hard work (+resilience to negative/cynical media/fans) has turned him into a fast, strong, intelligent striker, capable of stretching and knackering defences, scoring goals, holding up the ball, tracking runners the length of the pitch, and being fundamentally selfless.

– He never stops learning. You can see over the last three years how he’s changed his game. That takes humility and intelligence.

Three great moments

A hat-trick for Boro against, ironically enough against Leeds. And yes that is Adama Traore…


Reportedly an important moment in his Leeds career…


A typically unstoppable finish…


Future days
He’s always been a fit player and hasn’t suffered long term injuries, so it seems not unlikely that he’ll have a longer than average career. Around 27 is often regarded as the peak years for a player but it’s reasonable to push that back by two or three years given all the fitness coaches, and science that swarm over players now. So his England call up has come as he should be hitting his peak years. However, he has been a bit of a late developer so we shouldn’t assume his England career is now or never. It is perhaps ironic that the fact that he had so many doubters early in his career has made him so determined to prove them wrong and now he’s reached the top, determined to stay there.

I suspect if Gareth Southgate plays him, and with three games in less than two weeks, I suspect he will, he will not let anyone down. Maybe the England gig is the last hurdle he has had to overcome in his career. Many felt he should’ve had a call up in the summer but once again he was overlooked. This is a player who has proven so many people wrong, has been misunderstood, under-appreciated and treated with some degree of ignorance during a career that even he would admit has been in and out.

If he plays and especially if he scores, I hope someone asks Dyche to comment on a player he so lightly dismissed.

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