'This one is for them' - Patrick Bamford remembers Leeds United's struggles in dedication of top-half finish

THIS one’s for you.

Thursday, 20th May 2021, 4:45 am

That’s the message from striker Patrick Bamford who says Leeds United’s Premier League top-half finish is for all those who have suffered at the club over the last 16 years.

It has actually been 19 years since the Elland Road outfit finished a season in the top 10 of the country’s top flight.

Under David O’Leary, a star-studded Leeds ended the 2001-02 campaign in fifth, missing out on qualification for the Champions League yet sealing a UEFA Cup spot.

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JOB DONE: For Leeds United and Patrick Bamford, back middle, as Tuesday evening's 2-0 win at Southampton, above, sealed a Premier League top-half finish for the first time in 19 years. Photo by Neil Hall - Pool/Getty Images.

Mark Viduka was top scorer with 17 goals in all competitions - and Bamford is now only one behind him, having netted the opener in Tuesday’s triumph at Southampton that ensured Leeds will finish in the top 10.

League goals wise, he’s even bettered Viduka’s efforts of 01-02 as five of the Australian’s goals came in cups.

Bamford is thriving three years on from his switch to Leeds from Middlesbrough for an initial fee of £7m but knows that United’s painstaking attempts to even get back in the Premier League extend long before his arrival and all the way back to 2004.

A 16-year exile from the country’s top flight followed - including three years in the doldrums of League One - and Bamford has dedicated this season’s efforts to those who have experienced such tough times in the last decade and a half.

“It’s fantastic,” said Bamford, assessing United’s 10th-place finish to LUTV.

“For the club as a whole, for everyone, the management, the staff, everyone who works behind the scenes, the kitchen staff at the training ground and everyone, they have been at the club for 16 years.

“Some of us players have been here for two or three years so we don’t really know what it’s like. But everyone at the club suffered and this one is for them and they deserve it. They have stuck with us through the hard times as well.”

Fifth in League One was the worst it got in terms of finishing position in the 2007-08 campaign which ended with defeat to Doncaster Rovers in the play-off final.

It was the lowest finish in the club’s history yet an upturn to events of the previous season in which Leeds finished bottom of the Championship having also been docked 10 points for entering administration.

Even the following campaign saw Leeds start on minus 15 points for incorrectly exiting administration, upgrading that season’s finish of fifth somewhat.

Thirteen years later, Bamford’s latest goal sent Leeds eighth in the country’s top flight before Wednesday’s games after Marcelo Bielsa’s Whites dug in at Southampton before hitting their stride en route to a 2-0 victory.

“In the first half, we probably couldn’t have complained if we went in losing,” admitted Bamford.

“They performed really well in the first half and we couldn’t keep the ball. Every time we won it back we just gave it back to them which made it really difficult to keep up the intense pressure.

“At half-time, we readjusted ourselves a little bit and came out a lot stronger in the second half.

On the balance of the game, we probably deserved to win but, in the first half, they were definitely better.”

Leeds, though, have proved better than at least half of the division upon their Premier League return where the table is concerned. And only four players had proved better than Bamford at scoring following Tuesday’s clash at St Mary’s.

Bamford’s neat finish through the legs of keeper Alex McCarthy from a tight angle put him level with Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin and joint fifth in the Golden Boot race.

Only Tottenham’s Harry Kane, Liverpool’s Mo Salah and Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandez have scored more and Bamford would have had more than 16 but for VAR this term.

For a moment, at St Mary’s, Bamford thought the game’s Video Assistant Referee was set to chalk off another.

Rodrigo’s superb reverse pass left Bamford in acres of space out wide before netting - but then came the dreaded check for offside.

“When it went to VAR I thought they are going to do me again,” said Bamford.

“I was a little bit nervous to be honest.

"The ball skipped away from me as it bounced so I just tried to get my toe on it and I was a little bit fortunate with the way it went in. But a goal is a goal.”

Sixteen and counting, for a side who will have at least 10 teams behind them when the Premier League campaign is done.

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Thank you Laura Collins