Patrick Bamford striving for Leeds United excellence amid lofty Elland Road ambition
Patrick Bamford’s search for excellence means he has lofty career ambitions.
Many in and outside of West Yorkshire scoffed at his aims of scoring 20 Premier League goals in the wake of long-awaited promotion at Elland Road last summer.
He ended up netting 17 in his debut top-flight campaign with Leeds – along with seven assists – a return which is by no means a laughing matter.
United’s number nine was behind only Three Lions captain Harry Kane in the goalscoring charts as England’s next best striking option for the Euros.
Gareth Southgate, though, thought otherwise and Bamford moved his international aims swiftly to the 2022 World Cup instead – a goal which seemed well beyond reach 12 months ago.
It is credit to the former Chelsea youngster that he was even in consideration for his country this summer having spent the majority of his career in the Football League.
Bamford split opinion as the club’s leading striker in the Premier League after being somewhat hit and miss in the Championship. Former Leeds boss David O’Leary was among those to voice his concerns the loudest.
He will again set big targets for the upcoming term under Marcelo Bielsa’s watch after proving his doubters wrong. Searching for excellence is no easy feat no matter the career choice.
There will forever be more questions to be answered. The idea of second season syndrome, for example, has already been thrown at Leeds – Bamford included.
Can he replicate his form again? Is he really an option for England? Will Leeds last the pace again under Marcelo Bielsa?
Should the Whites start slowly next month then those dissenting voices may become louder from outside of LS11. Nothing in football is ever easy and there are always more lows than highs – excellence is a hard thing to achieve.
Bamford enjoyed the high of last season and has now revealed he harbours hopes of representing Team GB at the Olympics in future – just another of those lofty ambitions coming to light.
The delayed games – which begin on Friday in Tokyo – hold similar values to that which Bamford has looked to achieve in his own career.
Excellence, friendship and respect have been a constant in the games since their inception well over a hundred years ago. For Bamford, the former is the one of greatest interest and one he continues to strive for every day at Leeds.
“I think excellence comes down to hard work,” he explained.
“A lot of people I’ve come across in football, especially, who had the talent, who were brilliant at football, but they didn’t have the hard work ended up falling off the ladder.
“So I think excellence comes down to: you can be good, you can have a skill, you can be born with certain skills but you have to harness it. You have to put in hard work and that turns into excellence.”
Bielsa enjoys having a tight-knit squad at Elland Road but his players are some of the closest off the pitch the Whites have seen in recent times.
The two other values that stand alongside excellence and the Olympic rings can be found just as easily at Thorp Arch as anywhere else in world sport.
“Friendship is something that’s crucial because, especially in a game like football, you can’t just do it on your own, you’re not playing on your own, you need your team-mates, you need to be friends with them,” Bamford continued.
“You need to have that good relationship in order to succeed. And I think even that’s true to a certain extent with individual athletes. I feel like it doesn’t matter what kind of sport you do. In order to succeed in it, you need those good people around you.
“Respect is probably the biggest one, because ultimately you start playing a sport, or doing a sport because you love it.
“In football, there is always that mutual respect between every player. People will argue on the pitch; people will fight on the pitch sometimes and there will be nasty things said on the pitch. But underneath all that, there is always that mutual respect.
“You’ve got to respect the amount of time someone’s put in to be able to be at the top of their field, whatever sport it may be, and even not sport, in music, anything like that.
“You have to respect what they’ve done. It doesn’t matter if you like the person. If you don’t like the person, you have to respect the amount of time they’ve put in. Nothing happens by accident.”
Some will perceive Bamford to have achieved excellence already in his chosen profession. Others will not. The ambition, though, will never stop burning.