Marcelo Bielsa's low key delight and the Leeds United song England striker Patrick Bamford first heard at Southampton

Patrick Bamford first heard it at St Mary’s Stadium late last season, presumably from Leeds United fans there in an unofficial capacity.

Thursday, 2nd September 2021, 4:36 am
FIRST AIRING - Leeds United striker Patrick Bamford first heard the England chant last season at Southampton. Pic: Getty

They get where water can’t, the Whites, and although away fans were not supposed to be present, Bamford was aware of their presence in the penultimate game of a campaign played almost entirely behind closed doors.

He heard it again on Sunday, in fact he couldn’t miss it because this time it came from a few thousand Whites, packing the away end quite legitimately in the brave new restriction-free world at Turf Moor, where he had just poked in a late equaliser to deny his former club Burnley three points.

“England’s number nine, England’s, England’s number nine.”

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Harry Kane is England’s number nine and, in Bamford’s estimation, the best out-and-out nine in world football.

But for the first time in his career, Leeds’ leading goalscorer for the past two seasons is an England striker and what’s more, one of only two natural nines in the Three Lions squad for this month’s hat-trick of World Cup Qualifying games.

With all parties in agreement that Mason Greenwood would be best served by remaining with Manchester United, Marcus Rashford recovering from shoulder surgery and Dominic Calvert-Lewin pulling out with a thigh strain, Bamford’s big chance at international level has finally arrived.

His call up, said Southgate, should be a proud moment for him and his family, but his Leeds United family celebrated just as keenly when the email from England dropped into the inbox of Leeds secretary Hannah Cox and was promptly brought to the attention of director of football Victor Orta, who previously worked with Bamford at Middlesbrough.

“I’d been doing some media thing at Elland road and I went straight into training and got a Facetime call off the technical director,” said Bamford.

“I was like ‘what’s that?’ I was trying to get ready for training and get changed, so I didn’t answer.

“I got another one straight away. I thought ‘I’d better answer.’ He was showing me the email from England to the club secretary which showed my name below Kalvin’s, and that’s how I found out.

“It feels unreal, to be honest. Obviously I got my hopes up a few times last year. I remember there were a few sleepless nights before the squad got announced, nothing came of it in the end, but I knew, because obviously Gareth was mentioning my name, that I was getting closer.

“To be honest, this time round I didn’t even think about it. I forgot that the squad announcement was that day, just turned up to training like any other day and, yeah, it was great news. I couldn’t believe it.”

Marcelo Bielsa could believe it. The Whites head coach believes Bamford is one of the best strikers in English football, but kept his delight low key, as is his way.

The Argentine’s contribution to this opportunity for Bamford cannot be downplayed, however. He has moulded a 24-year-old with pedigree and promise into a 27-year-old who brings pressing, physical presence and prolific Premier League goalscoring to the Leeds team. It’s a story that echoes the Bielsa-inspired transformation of Kalvin Phillips from local lad done well to 2021 England Player of the Year.

“He’s not said too much to me,” said Bamford of his boss.

“I think he wanted to keep me level-headed, keep me working hard, obviously concentrating on the game at the weekend.

“But after the game he saw me talking to my mum and dad, came over and congratulated them and just said, ‘enjoy it.’

“He’s not one to make a massive fuss over it, but in terms of the kind of imprint he’s had on me and my game – it’s massive. He’s improved me no end, and I think that goes for the whole squad.

“You can see that certain aspects of my game that I’d never even noticed needed improving, or even thought about – he’s very meticulous with detail and is always wanting you to improve, so it’s a perfect match because I want to keep getting better and better.”

The developments in Bamford’s game since 2018 have helped him win over a Leeds United fanbase who initially took their time to take to the striker.

They too celebrated the call up with that resounding chorus at Burnley.

“It’s always nice,” he said.

“I heard that at the end of last season at some point. I think it was away at Southampton, kind of tongue-in-cheek, but it’s nice whenever the fans sing your name.

“It’s not always smooth sailing when you first move to a club but the bond that I’ve got with the Leeds fans now and that we’ve created together is very big, and I appreciate every time they sing for me.”

The challenge now is to win over the rest of the country and if he gets on the pitch, as seems inevitable with three games in the space of six days, show why he, Bielsa and Leeds believe he belongs in an England shirt.

“I’d always believed that it was going to happen, and I always hoped that I was going to get to this level,” he said.

“Within myself, without kind of speaking out loud and fronting it for everyone, I always had that self-belief that I was capable and that I just needed to keep working hard.

“I knew I would never give up until the day I retired, so it was just about hard work and keeping going.”

“I’m just excited to grab any opportunity I get and hopefully do the same as what Kalvin did, because a lot of people didn’t understand why he was in the team and the Euros that he had was fantastic, and I think now people understand and realise what a great player he is.”

“It’s every kid’s dream, isn’t it? It’s very cliche to say that every kid footballer dreams of growing up and playing for England but it’s true, I mean it’s the pinnacle, to represent your country.

“It’s something I’ve dreamed about – playing for England – since I was very young and it’s always been an ambition of mine.

“It was a goal I set myself this season, to see if I can get called up at some point, and now I’ve just got to try and take the opportunity.”