Patrick Bamford's difficulties, importance of Kalvin Phillips' England bromance and Leeds United's Liverpool anticipation - Tony Dorigo

Former Leeds United and England defender Tony Dorigo writes exclusively for the Yorkshire Evening Post - this week he reviews Patrick Bamford's international debut and previews a clash with Liverpool.

Wednesday, 8th September 2021, 4:44 am
HUGE HONOUR - Leeds United's Patrick Bamford has had to fight to get to the international stage with England. Pic: Getty

What a fantastic honour Sunday’s England game was for Patrick Bamford. It’s amazing, starting for the first time for his country at 28 years of age, on his birthday after a career in which he’s had to stick at it, going to goodness knows how many clubs and having to evolve. No one can take that away from him and he should be hugely proud.

The game he had to start in was always one of those tricky ones. Andorra, the way they line up is so very defensive and for a striker all you’re going to get is a lot of red shirts around you all the time. I played in a similar game against San Marino many years ago and they’re games that can only go badly, not well. For a defender they’re easy, we just can’t concede. But for a striker of course you’re expected to score, yet just when they were tiring and things were opening up he gets taken off unfortunately.

I thought he did everything as best he could but it’s always difficult. International football is always very different, the teams you play against play very differently and Andorra are extremely different again. Hitting the ground running in that kind of game is not straightforward. Add in the fact that it wasn’t the first XI, it was a team of players all trying to do their bits and impress, it wasn’t the most fluid of performances, it made it all the more difficult for him.

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But he battled away, made all sorts of runs that weren’t quite seen and overall I think he can be pleased with himself. Gareth Southgate will have seen those runs and taken a good look at him in training. We all see the games, but training has been a chance for Bamford to show what he can do in that sort of environment.

What’s important is that he’s different to what they’ve got. Harry Kane is not going to do what Bamford does.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Bamford is back on the bench to face Poland and Kalvin Phillips is back in.

Against Hungary, Phillips was once again just superb and it’s amazing how confident and comfortable he now looks at international level.

He’s dominant, he takes charge and there’s a lovely bit of bromance between him and Declan Rice. You could see the delight in Phillips’ face when Rice scored and they’ve obviously become good mates off the pitch. In my time you had powerful clubs with lots of players, like Manchester United or Arsenal. Generally it was pretty friendly but at the start of your first camp you look up and it’s ‘oh my God there’s Bryan Robson or Peter Shilton’ and it takes a little getting used to. I always got on really well with the Nottingham Forest boys, Des Walker, Nigel Clough and Stuart Pearce, they were good lads. Integrating is always important but Phillips and Rice are in an important area of the pitch and they now seem to dovetail really well.

They’ve learned to play together, which has been crucial, because I have to admit when they first got paired I felt they always played a bit square, it didn’t seem to work as well as it does now. They’ve developed a relationship, they’ve got angles, Phillips does get forward a bit more at the right time.

It feels like a long time since Phillips broke into the senior side at Leeds. That’s not an easy thing to do either. Sometimes you get young players who show plenty of promise but the senior boys think he’s not quite ready. As a young player you have to force yourself in, go out and do your stuff.

For Joe Gelhardt it’s banging the goals in. He came on as a sub for England Under-20s and still scored twice. Everything I’ve heard about him suggests there are really high hopes for him at Leeds. Those Under-20 games are important as you progress, to show what you can do, to show you can score goals and play against different types, styles and countries. What a great start for him. He will be buzzing when he returns to Thorp Arch this week, as will others who have enjoyed their time away on international duty before turning their attention to the little matter of Liverpool at home on Sunday.

A first win of the season is a big ask but the Premier League is like that. Every single game is going to be a challenge in a number of different ways and the Liverpool game is certainly like that. If you look at the performance of the lads last season against the big boys, they won’t be frightened at all. What will be interesting is how the crowd impacts things, with one of the big teams coming to Elland Road the atmosphere will be white hot. It would be fantastic to get three points but getting a draw would be rather good as well.

I’ll never forget the first game back in the Premier League last season at Anfield, I was there but in the strangest of circumstances with no fans in. The front three of Liverpool, the way they started the game was absolutely electric but our boys took it on the chin and kept going back the other way. I’m sure they were pretty shocked with what we did, we certainly gave them a fright. I expect something similar again.

Before then I’ll be doing 26-odd miles up three pretty big mountains. I did the Three Peaks challenge with the club the first time and Angus Kinnear had just joined as chief executive, so we got to know him a little on the walk. No doubt we’ll have Noel Whelan out the front in trainers trying to run the whole thing but we’ll be a little more sensible. It’s going to take all day, so let’s hope there’s no rain and it cools down a little, but it’s for a great cause in the Leeds United Foundation.