Leeds United's new Mr Nasty Patrick Bamford thriving on a diet of boos
Patrick Bamford is thriving on a diet of boos, thanks to what he says is a recently-acquired nasty streak.
Much was made of Leeds United’s lone striker beefing up in the summer and working on his physical conditioning and upper-body strength in order to better battle with centre-halves and ensure the ball sticks up top.
As a result of his off-season and pre-season work, Bamford has held a vice-like grip on the starting role in Marcelo Bielsa’s team, despite the presence of prolific goalscoring loan signing Eddie Nketiah.
Bielsa has valued Bamford’s all-round game, his unselfish running for the team and the physicaility that allows him to be a focal point for the United attack and an out-ball when they need to go direct.
“I think it’s something that I’ve had to develop,” he said, of his improved physicality, something he credits Bielsa for.
“Nowadays, most teams play one striker up front, playing up front on your own you sometimes have to do that.
“You might go 85 minutes without a chance and you’ve just got to be there for the team, put yourself about a bit, affect the game in different ways.
“I’ve become physically stronger, I’ve developed a lot under Marcelo physically and also tactically. I think with experience it’s come.”
One of the side effects of Bamford’s development as a targetman is a flourshing relationship with the fans, both of a Leeds persuasion and otherwise.
Winning free-kicks and giving them away with any kind of frequency brings complaints – Huddersfield’s Cowley brothers were enraged by the lack of card for Bamford on Saturday – it brings on- and off-field tension, scuffles and square-ups.
Bamford has been seen nose to nose with defenders, cupping his ear to opposition supporters and giving them the universally accepted hand signal for ‘keep talking’.
That kind of thing makes him a figure of hate and a folk hero at the same time, depending on which team you’re supporting.
“They’ve been giving me a bit of grief in the last few games and if they’re going to give it they’ve got to take it,” he said, with a smile that suggested the bad-guy role is not something he’s too uncomfortable with.
“It’s weird but it spurs me on to do more. If the away fans are booing you, you know you’re doing something right.
“Off the pitch I don’t see myself as a nasty, horrible guy but on the pitch I have sometimes to bring it across. It’s something I’ve implemented this season quite well.
“When you go through a slight drought, there’s other things you can bring to the game; being able to help the team, whether roughing the opposition up or just doing different things to help other than score.”
Tuesday night’s win over Hull City was followed by some accusations that he had deliberately roughed up George Long, but video replays exonerated the striker. Sometimes the complaints will be false.
But Bamford freely admits that he relishes getting under the skin of the players who are out to stop him and Leeds from scoring, even if those players are pals like Ricky Keogh, with whom he got up close and personal in a few little off-the-ball moments back in September.
“I quite enjoy it,” said Bamford.
“I’m friends with Keesy off the pitch, I know him from my time at Derby, but as soon as you go on the pitch it doesn’t matter who it is, my aim is to win the game and try to score.
“If I can get any kind of advantage, even just by talking to them sometimes, as simple as that. It depends on the opposition really as to what kind of approach I take.”
Adding another string to his bow this season has made Bamford a better striker for Leeds, but the presence at Thorp Arch of Bielsa, a man who has coached Fernando Llorente, Michy Batshuayi, Hernan Crespo and Gabriel Batistuta, ensures that the learning process will not cease.
“When you’re working with him sometimes you forget about how much he’s done in the game,” said Bamford.
“It does have an impact on you. Some of the strikers he’s coached, some greats over the years. Little bits I can pick up, he’s always trying to help me.
“He’s a perfectionist. Whether it be concentration or little things we haven’t got right we should be getting right.
“He’s always trying to improve us so we don’t make that mistake again.”