'Bonkers' - Leeds United striker Patrick Bamford putting England omission into perspective but still eyeing Euros
PATRICK BAMFORD would probably have given you a strange look had you told him he would be in contention for an England place at the start of the season.
“I would have said you’re bonkers” admits the Whites no 9, who felt he had a point to prove in the Premier League, never mind international thoughts.
First time around in the country’s top flight, Bamford netted just once in 27 top-flight outings for Crystal Palace, Burnley, Norwich City and Middlesbrough between August 2015 and May 2017 - albeit 23 of those outings came from the bench.
Nearly four years later, Harry Kane is the only Englishman to have scored more Premier League goals so far this season - yet still there is no place for 14-goal Bamford in Gareth Southgate’s England squad.
But whilst naturally disappointed, United’s no 9 is putting his omission into perspective with the snub also adding fire in the belly to a striker who still hopes he can make this summer’s Euros.
Grantham-born Bamford already has two caps for England’s under-21s but they came back in 2013 and 2014 when a striker who had only just turned 20 was settling in at Chelsea following the £1.5m move from Nottingham Forest.
Back in his days as England’s under-21s boss, Southgate had then called Bamford up to his young Three Lions squad - and six and a half years later many expected Southgate to then hand Bamford his first senior call this week.
Now 27, Bamford has even turned down advances from other admirers to switch allegiances and represent Ireland whom the striker qualifies to play for through his grandparents.
Bamford represented Ireland at under-18s level whilst at Forest but pulling on the Three Lions jersey is the dream and one that looked set to be fulfilled this week.
Instead, Southgate opted to hand a first international call up to Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins who is four behind Bamford in the Premier League goalscoring charts and has half as many assists.
Watkins joined Kane, Watkins and Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin as the target man types in the squad in addition to Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling and Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford as fellow forwards. Kane aside, Bamford has outdone all of them over combined goals and assists but was still left out.
Just one day after Southgate had named his squad - with no place for Bamford - the Whites striker produced the perfect response by netting the opening goal in Friday night’s 2-1 win at Fulham as part of a stellar display battling a hip injury.
Missing out on England was on his mind - but so too is a late push to bag himself a spot in the squad for the European Championships this summer.
Southgate admitted Bamford was close to making his squad and the Whites striker said of missing out: “I think that every player who gets called up probably deserves it.
"I think there’s probably a lot of people who thought they might get called up and are slightly disappointed at the news.
“But for me, I have just got to keep doing what I am doing really and try and keep working and see if I can put my name in contention for the Euros.
“As long as I keep going the way that I am I think that I might be in with a shot and who knows, I have just got to keep working hard for the club.”
For Bamford, the next opportunity to shine will now arrive with next Saturday’s Premier League clash at home to Sheffield United.
In the meantime, an England side who will take on San Marino at Wembley tonight will take in two more World Cup qualifiers in Albania on Sunday and at home to Poland on Wednesday evening.
“I said it before that at the start of the season, if you told me I was going to be linked with England I would have said you’re bonkers,” said Bamford, speaking to Sky Sports.
“I think that I’ve come a long way and I can’t really be too upset because it’s something that I was never dreaming of at the start of the season.
"It’s one of them things that I will keep working towards and if it comes it comes and if not then I will know I have done my best.”
Asked if the omission was on his mind against Fulham, Bamford pondered: “It was in the back of my mind a little bit I guess but I was just trying to get through as much of the game as I could because I was struggling!
"But there’s always that to give you an extra bit of fire in your belly I guess.”
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Thank you Laura Collins