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Leeds United's Patrick Bamford and the elusive number 9

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When Patrick Bamford first heard of Leeds United's interest he dismissed it as paper talk and continued his preparations for a gruelling Championship season ahead.

The 24-year-old, after all, had no real thoughts of a departure from Teesside this summer having put in the hard yards under Tony Pulis this pre-season. The interest from West Yorkshire though was very real and finally when it came in the form of an official offer there was only ever one answer.

Patrick Bamford.

Patrick Bamford.

"It wasn't until the bid got accepted that then I was like 'alright, this is my chance now, it's time for a fresh start' and I was eager to go," Bamford revealed.

"It was a no brainer, it's somewhere that can give me the chance to be the main man. It's an exciting project and I can't wait to get going."

The lure of the size of a club like Leeds United has long been one that many players who have been and gone through the Elland Road doors have lauded but the pull of a move 60 miles south in the same division runs deeper.

United had something. They had something that Bamford had craved and craved his whole career. The 9 that will be emblazoned across the back of his shirt this season represents more than just a number for him.

Patrick Bamford.

Patrick Bamford.

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It represents a belief in Bamford that has yet to be instilled by any other club: "I've been begging for the chance to play up front. I always believed in myself and if I got the chance I would show that I am a number 9 and that's always remained the same."

The Whites saw first-hand the ability Bamford possesses in leading the line as he stepped in amid an injury-crisis and notched his first-ever career hat-trick last March at the Riverside in a 3-0 victory over Leeds.

During that run he notched 9 goals in 7 games for 'Boro but it hasn't always been that way. From 2012 to 2017 Bamford spent time at six different teams away from parent club Chelsea, some periods were less fruitful than others.

Patrick Bamford.

Patrick Bamford.

A 25-month spell without a goal only added to his frustration as he failed to find a home before Aitor Karanka came calling in January last year.

"I would be lying if sometimes you thought 'you know what maybe I'm not good enough'," Bamford conceded.

"I think every player that's gone through a phase where they don't play probably thinks that. It's just about making sure you train right and you keep yourself going. The main reason we play football is because we love it so trying to make sure you still enjoy it and if you're enjoying what you do you'll get the best out of yourself."

The majority of his second spell at the Riverside though was spent out on the wing, a position which he was happy to play but not one where he felt he belonged.

"There's been times when I have played out wide and done well which probably hasn't helped my cause in wanting to play up front," Bamford admitted.

"Earlier on in my career I probably wasn't physical enough to play up front, especially as a lone striker, but as the years have gone on I've grown up and learnt a lot more which has helped me.

"I'm confident wherever I have been if I have played the games. For me it's just about getting a run of games and I know that when I play regularly I'll score."

His shirt number at Elland Road represents the belief Leeds have in Bamford for the next four seasons. He will be the main man. The man to lead the attack on those in the Championship and beyond.

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United have paid £7m for his services which is the highest transfer fee the Whites have dished out since the acquisition of Robbie Fowler for £11m from Liverpool in 2001.

"No pressure then," Bamford smirked.

Pressure is probably the word that most would associate with Leeds United and Elland Road. The external and internal pressure of returning to the Premier League is clear for all to see but it is something that Bamford has already set his sights on without even kicking a ball.

"I came here to try and get promoted," he claimed.

"I think that's the aim of the whole club. We've got to be ambitious, there's no point in coming in and thinking we'll try and improve a little bit on last year. We've got to aim for the very top and I think that all the players are key to that and hopefully that's what we'll do.

"I think if you look at the club it is ready to go back to the Premier League."

Bamford has been entrusted to lead the assault on the Championship for Bielsa's revolution in West Yorkshire in a role he has always dreamed of.

Pressure is one thing that the 24-year-old may have on his shoulders, but if he can carry the heavy load then that number 9 shirt, they very one that has eluded him in his career until now, may just be his and his for a long time to come.

First up, it's Gary Rowett and Stoke City on Sunday afternoon.