'I think the second year in the Premier League will be harder' - Patrick Bamford's Leeds United caution
Sitting in midtable with four games to go Leeds United could be forgiven for dreaming of European football in 2022 but Patrick Bamford expects their second Premier League season to be harder.
Their proximity to the European qualification places, as a newly promoted side, has introduced to the debate around Elland Road the possibility of a top six or top seven finish next season.
An impressive return to the top flight and the likelihood of recruitment that strengthens the squad this summer give supporters, at least, license to dream of even better things to come.
Owner Andrea Radrizzani has told supporters his vision is to keep the club in the Premier League for two or three seasons in order to facilitate the redevelopment of Elland Road and an eventual assault on the top end of the table.
The cautious, slow and steady wins the race approach meets with Bamford's approval. The leading goalscorer believes Leeds, currently nearing the end of their first top tier season since 2004, should walk before they can run, turning themselves into a solid Premier League outfit before being expected to compete for a place at the European table.
To become an established Premier League outfit will require greater consistency, he says.
"I think the second year in the Premier League will be harder than this year," Bamford told BBC Leeds."In order to re-establish ourselves we need to stay there for two or three years before people can start saying we can challenge for this or for that. We've shown this year we can compete against the biggest and best but it's that consistency.
"We don't want to get ahead of ourselves and say next year we're going to go for Europe but ultimately the aim should be within the next five years to try to push for the top six, top four spaces. It should be general progression but for the first couple of years at least is to get that stability in the Premier League."
Having achieved his dream of becoming a regular Premier League starter and goalscorer - he's netted 14 this season - Bamford admits he does still harbour dreams of achieving something more.
"I'd love to win some trophies but a dream for me is to play in the Champions League," he said.
"At some point hopefully we can get in there."
Still only 27, Bamford's other dream - pulling on an England shirt - remains alive. But even after this week's announcement that UEFA will permit national teams to select 26 players for this summer's Euros instead of 23, the Leeds striker is keeping his feet on the ground and his expectations realistic.
He's flattered that Gareth Southgate has namechecked him as a player on his radar, but knows there are players in with a greater chance of selection for the tournament. All he can do is focus on what he can control in a Leeds shirt, in the four remaining games of the season.
"I'm just guessing he'd take players he's already worked with to the Euros, I can't imagine there will be too many wildcards that would go in fresh as their first call up but you never know," he said.
"It's one of those things, with injuries and things like that, I'll just keep working hard and see what happens. The England squad is unreal at the minute, there's so many good players, there's a lot of players to choose from for those three spaces.
"All I can ask for is the fact that my name is getting mentioned in and around it. Ultimately the decision is out of my hands."