Leeds United striker Patrick Bamford relishing Premier League 'fair crack of the whip'

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PATRICK BAMFORD became a Premier League footballer when he was just 18 years old.

Having made just two appearances for Nottingham Forest, the striker made a £1.5m switch to Chelsea in January 2012.

Twenty seven top-flight outings followed, though none with Chelsea.

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But now Bamford is heading back, and this time relishing the opportunity of a “fair crack of the whip” to prove he is indeed Premier League class.

BACK IN THE BIG TIME: Leeds United striker Patrick Bamford. Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images.BACK IN THE BIG TIME: Leeds United striker Patrick Bamford. Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images.
BACK IN THE BIG TIME: Leeds United striker Patrick Bamford. Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images.

Bamford is one of only six members of Marcelo Bielsa’s squad to have experienced Premier League football along with Pablo Hernandez, Helder Costa, Adam Forshaw, Liam Cooper and Tyler Roberts with the latter making just one outing from the bench for West Brom.

Like Forshaw, Bamford bagged experience of top-flight football at Middlesbrough, in addition to spells at Crystal Palace, Norwich City and Burnley.

Despite his move to Chelsea as a teenager, a top-flight outing for the Blues never materialised despite Bamford excelling for the club’s Under-21s and in the reserve league.

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The striker then had loan spells at MK Dons, Derby County and Middlesbrough before a Premier League debut finally presented itself in August 2015 as part of another loan spell at Crystal Palace.

Bamford had signed a new three-year deal with Chelsea the previous month and the next two seasons saw the striker make 27 Premier League outings - with 19 of them coming as part of loans at three different clubs.

After making six top-flight appearances from the bench for Palace, Bamford spent the second half of the season on loan at Norwich where another seven Premier League outings were in the offing, two starts and five from the bench.

The 2016-17 campaign then began with yet another loan spell - to Burnley - and after six more outings as a Premier League substitute Bamford then signed for Middlesbrough for £5.5m in January 2017, ending five years at Chelsea.

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A first Premier League goal then arrived four months later in the 2-1 loss at home to Southampton but by then Middlesbrough had already been relegated and Bamford was on his way back to the Championship having made eight Premier League outings for Boro including two starts.

Now, two years after signing for Leeds for £7m, Bamford is relishing the prospect of a top-flight return in what he considers perfect circumstances.

“I’ve never had a real fair crack of the whip at it,” said Bamford, speaking to Sky Sports about having a point to prove in the Premier League.

“I think the easiest way to get a chance in the Premier League is probably to take a team up from the Championship and then you get your chance and, fortunately, I have been able to do that.

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“I said when I signed for Leeds to my mate that I don’t think I realised myself that being the No 9 for Leeds is a massive privilege and it’s also such a big thing that taking them up just makes it extra special.”

Reflecting on waving goodbye to the Championship and its notoriously unpredictable results, the 26-year-old smiled: “I think you can get that in the Premier League as well, maybe not to the same extent.

“The Championship is a terrific league and it does throw up the odd result every so often. It makes it enjoyable for the fans.

“I suppose if you are not supporting that certain team it’s enjoyable but for fans of Leeds and whoever else has been on the rollercoaster with their team I’m sure it’s a nightmare and your nerves are in tatters.”

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Amazingly given the recent 16-year rollercoaster at Leeds, nerves were back fully intact as United took in their final two games of life in the Championship with promotion as champions already secured.

With United already six points clear in the automatic promotion spots, they sealed promotion without even playing on Friday, July 17 as second-placed West Brom slipped up 2-1 at Huddersfield Town.

The title came the next day as third-placed Brentford lost 2-1 at Stoke City meaning Leeds could strut their stuff in their final two games at Derby County and at home to Charlton Athletic as champions.

“It was surreal, unbelievable,” said Bamford.

“We all went to watch the West Brom game and I don’t think any of us expected West Brom to lose and then the same with Brentford.

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“We thought we were going to have to go Derby needing to win to win the Championship. But for once we can actually say some teams have done us some favours in the last few games.”

Leeds, though, needed no favours at all, finishing 10 points clear of second-placed West Brom with top scorer Bamford netting 16 goals during a season in which he has made 43 starts and two outings from the bench.

Through the rough and the smooth, Bamford has been Bielsa’s go-to man.

“I owe him everything,” said Bamford of United’s head coach.

“I can’t speak highly enough about him.

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"There’s been times this year where I have been through rough patches, maybe not scoring the goals but offering other things to the team and he’s always been the one to support me.

"To be honest I owe him a lot, an awful lot.

“I can’t really put it into words how much it means the kind of trust he has put in me.

"Yeah he has had a go at me a fair few times and I have probably deserved it but he’s always stuck by me and I just really hope he stays next year.”

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Thank you Laura Collins

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