PATRICK BAMFORD made little fuss of his 26th birthday on Thursday.
A normal day at the office training with Leeds United at Thorp Arch; after an eye-opening early morning visit to St James’s University Hospital in Leeds, first.
Bamford, after all, knows his role as Whites No 9 extends to responsibilities far beyond the football pitch.
To that end, the striker was only too happy to spend time with the hospital’s staff and patients to raise awareness of Organ Donation Week.
Then, just before dashing off to training, came an opportunity to actually reflect on his birthday – what the striker had achieved so far and what targets were in store for the next years of his career
The message from Bamford was simple – 26 years old but feeling much younger and proud to follow in the footsteps of Mark Viduka and Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink as Leeds United’s no 9 – seven and a half years on from his move to Chelsea from first club Nottingham Forest at just 19 years of age.
Six loan spells followed before the permanent switch to Middlesbrough and then on to Leeds.
Bamford paused for reflection on his career so far and summarised: “To be honest, I think I had a good start, I think when I was probably 21.
“Then I had a few years when I didn’t really play so, for me, even though I am 26, I still feel like I have not actually been playing for that long.
“I think the last couple of years have been good.
“The last year before I came here at Boro or the last half a year was good and then last year was a weird one.
“To get double figures was all right but having had the big injury I felt like, ‘you know what, I will take that, that’s not a bad return’. And then this year I feel good.
“It’s weird to think about it, sometimes you don’t realise, you get all immersed in it and you forget what you are doing and forget how big a thing it is.
"I was speaking to my mate the other day and I was with one of his friends and he said ‘do you get stopped a lot?
"I said ‘yes, sometimes in Leeds but generally not too bad’ and he was like ‘imagine what it will be like when you get to the Prem?'
“I said ‘yeah, it’s different because Leeds is a one club city, everyone supports Leeds.
“He said ‘is it mad that you’re the no 9 for Leeds’ and if you think about it like that, you grow up watching Viduka, Hasselbaink and you are thinking when I am old with kids and grandkids they will say you played No 9 for Leeds.
“It’s a big thing and I think sometimes you forget that but reflecting on it is a big thing and an important thing and I am proud of it.”
Bamford enjoyed a rapid rise through the ranks with first club Nottingham Forest and a move to Chelsea followed for around £1.5m as an 18-year-old back in January 2012.
The Grantham-born striker had played just twice for Forest’s first team but the teen striker had been earning rave reviews for his performances in the FA Youth Cup, scoring four goals in the last-16 win at Southampton and five in the previous round.
After signing for Chelsea, loan spells at six different clubs in MK Dons, Derby County, Middlesbrough, Crystal Palace, Norwich City and Burnley then followed before Bamford finally left Stamford Bridge in January 2017 to sign permanently for Middlesbrough on a four-year deal.
After eighteen months at the Riverside, Bamford then became Leeds United’s most expensive signing since another famous no 9 – Robbie Fowler – when joining the Whites for £7m last summer.
The striker’s first full campaign at Leeds was disrupted by two separate knee ligament injuries which forced him to miss 21 games but 10 goals were still netted and the striker already has four from six games early into his second campaign.
Now, the aims moving forward are simple, fire his club to the Premier League and reassess from the country’s top flight.
Even after only 14 months with the Whites, Bamford already admits he could see himself staying with Leeds for the long, long term.
“I don’t see why not,” said the striker.
“Being so settled is nice. It is something that I had always wanted, I had always wanted to be the main No 9 somewhere, to get that chance and to get settled and it’s a nice place to settle in to be honest.
“I live just outside the city, 20 minutes to get into town, I like living in the countryside, the people at the club are brilliant and the fans are brilliant.
“It’s the perfect club, it’s got everything.
“People don’t talk about history so much now but obviously it has that, it’s got the atmosphere, it’s got he stadium, it’s got hundreds and thousands of fans all around the world.
“It’s got everything, the people around the club are generally what make a club – the people who work at it – and I think we have got a brilliant set, for the most part!
“Everyone who works there is brilliant and it is a really good club.
“I think my sole focus this year is just to help us get promoted and score as many goals as I can and then hopefully when we are in the Premier League set new targets and see what we can achieve.”