Leeds United legend Jermaine Beckford on Patrick Bamford's improvement, Eddie Nketiah's thinking and Marcelo Bielsa's strategy
A more muscular Patrick Bamford is softening up defences for Eddie Nketiah to come on and terrorise them.
Bamford spent most of his 70 minute appearance at Oakwell on Sunday with a Barnsley defender on his back.
He was hassled and harried then eventually clattered by Aapo Halme, yet still managed to break free of his minder to get on the end of a handful of chances.
None of those sights of goal brought him any joy.
But having proved a handful for the Tykes, Bamford went off with 20 minutes to go.
Nketiah came on and twice escaped his markers to score a goal and win a penalty.
Bamford has been replaced by the Arsenal loanee in each of Leeds’ last three Championship games and according to a man who knows more than most what it’s like to play up front for the Whites, Marcelo Bielsa’s forward formula is working.
Jermaine Beckford scored 85 goals in 152 games for the club during his four-year stay at Elland Road.
He believes Bamford and Nketiah’s differences are good for Leeds.
“They’re two completely different players and at the moment it’s working really well,” said the retired striker.
“Patrick Bamford is putting in a lot of work and putting the defenders under lots and lots of pressure, constantly for the 65, 70 minutes he plays, then Eddie comes on for the last 20, 25, when the defenders are worn out and tired.
“He’s full of energy, full of beans, his movement is fantastic, not to mention his confidence in front of goal and his confidence levels, for someone so young.”
Bamford and Nketiah have hit the net four times apiece this season, although the latter has played 331 minutes fewer.
Joe Jordan, another former Leeds number nine, says the pressure Bamford feels when he wears that number is no different to the pressure on any other player on the pitch.
Beckford says that particular shirt number does come with a burden.
“It’s massive if I’m honest with you,” he said.
“If you look at some of the veterans who have worn the number nine shirt prior to myself, the expectation levels and the pressure levels are sky high.
“You’re the focal point of the attack and you have to create, make things happen.
“The pressure for the number nine is huge.
“You sort of know, especially when you first walk into the training ground and into Elland Road, you know with the history of the club what it’s going to be about.
“You have that preparation time but ultimately it never stops being a bit of a shock to the system.”
Beckford, who tried to cope with the pressure and the expectation by ‘blanking it out’ and playing his natural game, is impressed with the game Bamford has been playing this season.
He has seen an improvement in Bamford and the current number nine can count his predecessor among his fans.
“I like Patrick Bamford,” said Beckford.
“I think his movement is very clever, he’s improved quite a bit in terms of his upper body strength from last season.
“When the ball comes into him you can tell the guys around him have a lot of confidence in him because they’re starting to make a lot of movements off him.
“Last season I don’t think they had as much confidence in him in terms of his hold up play.
“I think he’s definitely an unsung hero for Leeds.
“He does a lot of unselfish work, his movement and he’s a threat in front of goal as well, you can’t take that away from him.”
As long as Nketiah is scoring goals at a rate of one every 62 minutes, there will be calls for him to start.
Beckford does not foresee a change just yet, but he’s willing to bet Nketiah is desperate to alter the status quo.
“Everything is working really well as it stands; there’s a healty competition for the two boys up front and they’re both scoring goals, giving the manager a headache.
“But as amazing as it is for the team and the guys individually, on a personal level Eddie has got to be thinking what more can I do?
“The boss is looking at it from a different perspective, he’s winning games – what he’s doing at the moment is working.
“You don’t want to change a winning side but you don’t want to frustrate important players.”