'It's like a family in football' - why protracted Patrick Bamford contract talks are no concern at Leeds United
Negotiations over Patrick Bamford’s next Leeds United contract have been ticking along for some time, but there’s no concern over the striker’s future.
He has personal ambitions, like representing England at the 2022 World Cup, however as his clubmate Kalvin Phillips has proved, being a Leeds player is no barrier to Three Lions involvement at major tournaments.
His dream of playing in European competition is shared by the Elland Road hierarchy, the Whites’ first season back in the Premier League offering more than a little hope of that happening in the short to medium term.
Most importantly of all, Bamford has found a home at Leeds United and made a home in West Yorkshire.
He is more settled than he’s ever been in his professional footballing career, having made a £1.5m move from Nottingham Forest to Chelsea at 18 and then bounced around various loan clubs before Middlesbrough bought him for £5.5m.
Eighteen months later he was off to Leeds, where he recovered from a difficult, injury-hit debut season that ended in play-off heartache, to really find his groove.
His 16-goal tally in a promotion and title-winning second campaign was followed by 17 Premier League goals as Leeds finished in the top half of the table.
Approaching his fourth season under Marcelo Bielsa, life at Leeds is good.
“The only club I’ve been at longer was Chelsea but I was always on loan and stuff there,” he told the YEP.
“I think this time round is probably the most settled I’ve been. I love living in the area, I love the club, it’s like a family in football. I can’t speak highly enough of how everything has gone.
"It couldn’t have gone any better. I had a little bit of a sticky start with the injury but since then it’s all been uphill.”
Finding happiness away from Elland Road and Thorp Arch has been important for Bamford, allowing him to focus fully on the job of firstly firing Leeds into the Premier League and then helping to keep them there.
And given the intensity and pressure involved when you play for an audience as vast as the one that follows Leeds, home can be a haven.
“I think they go hand in hand,” he said.
“Sometimes, if you’re not playing well you take that off the pitch and take it home with you.
"Likewise if you’re not settled at home you can take it onto the pitch sometimes.
"It’s crucial, first thing first, to make sure you’re settled off the pitch because it gives you a clear head when you go to play.
"You see players who come to new clubs, new surroundings and they do find it difficult and I think that’s why.
“Sometimes it feels intense, sometimes it’s nice to shut off from the world a bit, turn your phone off and ignore everything that’s going on.
"But it’s part and parcel of it, especially modern day.”
Stability has been the watchword at Leeds ever since Bielsa confirmed he would return for a second season, in the summer of 2019.
He might not have signed his 2020 contract until the eve of the Premier League season and is making everyone wait this summer, too, but the head coach seems every bit as settled as Bamford.
It is reassuring to know that the boss who kept faith with him when his place in the team was coming under question in the 2019/20 season, the boss whose footballing ideology appears to fit Bamford like a glove, will remain in place.
“I think it’s crucial because when a new manager comes in they always bring their own style,” he said.
“If a club’s changing their manager every year you never know whether you’re suited as a player to his style, it’s difficult.
"You look at clubs where players have been regular starters, then there’s a manager change and all of a sudden they’re not involved in the squad, then the next manager comes in and they’re back in the squad, yo-yoing.
"It just doesn’t give any consistency so it’s very important that you have that stability.”
For Bamford and Leeds, preparations for a second term in the top flight are in full swing.
In his summer break he worked with a conditioning coach on strength and speed work, before reporting back for the annual beasting at Thorp Arch.
The tiredness as he drives home each evening will by now be familiar, Bielsa’s triple sessions are a traditional treat for the players, but the intensity of Leeds’ fitness regime has never been more important.
Everyone you talk to around Elland Road anticipates a bigger challenge from the upcoming season than the one that ended with Leeds in the top half of the table.
“I think the second season is probably going to be harder,” said Bamford.
“I think last year there wasn’t any expectation, apart from our own fans. I think the general media and public saw us as just another team that came up to the Premier League.
“I think now we’ve had the season we did, people start having higher expectations of us and expect us to be finishing in the same spot and doing as well as we did.
“So there’s that added pressure and the fact that teams will be used to us and try to make it more difficult, because they’ve had one look at us last year. It’s not going to catch them by surprise.”
Manchester United, Leeds’ first opponents, would relish the chance to put some evidence behind the theory that it’s going to be tougher this time round when the teams meet at Old Trafford on August 14.
It’s a game Bamford is looking forward to, with a measure of revenge on his mind after last season’s 6-2 defeat, and he knows the fans share his excitement.
“Hopefully we’ll have a good number of fans in this time round,” he said.
“Last time, it was the first time we’d played them away in a while and it didn’t quite go to plan. It’s a good game to start with and I’m sure the fans are absolutely buzzing for it.”
By the time the game rolls around Leeds hope to have Bamford’s long-term future and Bielsa’s contract, both of which have been discussed for months, sorted and signed.
The pair have achieved remarkable things together since 2018 and share a drive and determination to improve each time they compete.
For Bamford, seven more goals would bring up the half century at Leeds and take him past some huge names, including Gordon Strachan, Gary McAllister and Brian Deane.
Replicating last season’s tally would put him above Alan Smith.
The goals he has scored up to this point have already secured for him a place in history and the hearts of supporters, at a club where he’s happy and settled, but not prepared to settle for what he has.
“I’ll probably sit down and think about it all when I retire,” he said.
“Until then just keep going, keep trying to move forward.”
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Thank you Laura Collins