Patrick Bamford's summer taunt put the Premier League on alert - now he's backed it up with Leeds United

Leeds United's number nine has taken the Premier League by storm this season.

By Joe Urquhart
Saturday, 13th February 2021, 12:00 pm

There was a moment last summer when Premier League defenders should have been put on notice.

Leeds United were in the midst of a promotion party having earned a place in the top flight for the first time in 16 years.

Under Marcelo Bielsa, the Elland Road outfit had claimed the Championship title by a 10-point margin and were heading back to the big time and the bright lights.

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The bunting was barely up in LS11 and the champagne corks were yet to hit the floor as the first questions over how the Whites would fare amongst England’s elite surfaced.

“In the Premier League in particular, when you take people on and create chances you’ve got to take them,” former Leeds head coach David O’Leary proclaimed on national radio.

“Patrick Bamford has done great, but I still think another centre-forward would be very important for them. I’d like to see them sign a really top-class centre-forward.”

United’s number nine – at the end of his second full season in West Yorkshire – had a simple and straightforward message, which was conveyed on his Twitter account: ‘and so it starts’ accompanied by not one, but three sleeping man emojis.

Leeds United striker Patrick Bamford. Pic: Getty

Leeds did sign a top-class centre forward in the form of Spain’s leading front man and club record recruit Rodrigo, with sporting director Victor Orta parting with a little under £30m for his services.

Bamford had scored 16 goals in the Whites elongated promotion campaign, but had come in for criticism over his lack of killer instinct in front of goal and the top flight was expected to be an even bigger challenge.

Bielsa has stuck with his number nine through thick and thin since his arrival – including a 10-game run without a goal last term – with the Argentine always citing the benefits he brought to the team over any questions of his finishing ability.

The 27-year-old had enjoyed spells in the Premier League before, mainly on loan and a campaign with Middlesbrough, but the wider assumption over the summer was that despite all the traits he brought, Rodrigo was arriving from La Liga to displace him.

Bamford, though, has used it as fuel for his inner fire – admitting so recently – and has stormed to 12 goals and five assists in 22 Premier League games.

“Non stop running is required first and foremost,” Bamford said of his role under United’s head coach.

“You have to give one 100 percent. The first job as a striker is to defend – I know it sounds strange. But you have to provide and apply that defensive pressure at the start of the playing out of the opposition.

“It makes it easier for our defenders to read the game. If I don’t do that, teams can play through us. So the defending starts with me, that’s the first thing.

“Also constantly mixing it up and never standing still. Going short and long. Then long and short.

“It is physically demanding. I am not going to lie and I can’t do it for 90 minutes all the time – sometimes I have to take a little walk.

“It all pays off though. He (Bielsa) has developed me into a much stronger person and player.”

Bamford has gone from questions over his ability to lead a Premier League attack to suggestions that he could be included in England’s forthcoming squad for this summer’s European Championships.

He faces an uphill struggle against established players – though has scored more goals this season than an array of other options currently at Gareth Southgate’s disposal.

Three Lions captain Harry Kane and Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin (13) are ahead in the scoring charts but others who are vying for inclusion like Tammy Abraham (six), Danny Ings (seven), Marcus Rashford (eight), Callum Wilson (10) and even Ollie Watkins (10) sit behind Bamford.

“I think if you’d have said that at the start of the season I would’ve brushed it off and said you are mad,” he laughed.

“It is good if you are getting talked about I guess but there are four or five strikers who have not really been involved with England before and they are all doing well.

“It will be interesting to see who does get called up. If I do or I don’t I just know that I have done my best and whoever does will fully deserve it, whether it is me or any others.”

England talk seems like a pipe dream but closer to home in his day job he’s finding success and consistency.

Bielsa is being repaid for his unwavering faith and Leeds are benefiting – having recently moved 17 points clear of the relegation zone over the halfway stage of their first season back in the Premier League.

“After being out of the league for 16 years it is important for a big club like Leeds to get a footing in again and build from that,” Bamford added.

“I think we have outdone ourselves coming up and I think we have taken a lot of teams by surprise.

“It is no more than we’ve deserved so far. In some patches of the season we have been brilliant, and sometimes we’ve let ourselves down. It’s that consistency but it bodes well for the future of Leeds.”

Maybe Bamford was referring to the start of an Elland Road era with his lighthearted taunt, because for Leeds and their number nine there has been no looking back since