Leeds United’s return to the Premier League after 16 seasons away was a complete team effort, with the entire squad contributing to their Championship title in 2019-20. But undoubtedly one of the most important pieces to their successful promotion push was striker Patrick Bamford.
The 26-year-old has had quite an interesting career to date, having experienced the highs of moving to Chelsea as a talented teenager to the lows of multiple failed stops at the Premier League level.
But Bamford seems to have found a home at Leeds, where he figures to be a pivotal player in their bid to become Premier League mainstays once again.
SBOTOP takes a look back at the Leeds striker’s career, from his early lower-league stops all the way to his rise at Elland Road.
Early promise leads to big move
Bamford began his footballing career with Nottingham Forest. A tall and talented striker, he came up through the ranks and showed immense goalscoring potential as a teen. But he only made two senior appearances for Forest before Chelsea came calling. At age 18, he made the move to Stamford Bridge in January 2012 for £1.5 million.
Bamford spent the remainder of the 2011-12 season primarily with the Chelsea reserves, then went on loan to MK Dons in League One the following two seasons. And after a successful spell with the Dons, he moved up to the Championship with Derby County, where he had eight goals in 21 games as a 19-year-old.
Bamford then had his breakout season with Middlesbrough in 2014-15. He had 17 goals in 38 appearances to help Boro reach the play-offs, where they ultimately fell short of promotion to the Premier League.
With his combination of size, versatility, technical ability, and aerial prowess, Bamford had the look of a complete, modern centre-forward.
Young Bamford’s impressive play on loan had made him quite popular with Chelsea fans, who were clamouring for him to be given a chance in the first team. But much like other members of Chelsea’s infamous ‘Loan Army’ — Kevin De Bruyne and Mohamed Salah to name just two– Bamford could not break into then-manager Jose Mourinho’s squad.
Premier League struggles
Bamford would eventually get his chance in the Premier League as he was sent on loan to Crystal Palace in 2015-16.
However, Bamford had a rough spell at Selhurst Park, where he made just six appearances and scored no goals. Frustrated with his lack of playing opportunities at Palace, Bamford left in December and joined Norwich.
He made his first career Premier League start against Manchester City, one of two starts in seven appearances for the Canaries but was still searching for his first goal.
After another unsuccessful loan spell the following season — he left Burnley midway through the season after clashing with manager Sean Dyche — Bamford finally parted ways with Chelsea and moved to Middlesbrough, who were in the middle of a relegation scrap.
He finally scored his first Premier League goal in his first start with the club, but Boro still went down that season. Bamford stayed with the club as they went back down to the Championship to try and rebuild his career. He did just that as he scored 11 goals in 39 league games, which helped earn him a move to Leeds.
Premier League rise with Leeds
With his £7 million move, Leeds — and new manager Marcelo Bielsa — made Bamford the club’s most expensive signing since Robbie Fowler in 2001. Rodrigo is now the club’s record signing after arriving this season.
Unfortunately, Bamford’s first season at Elland Road was sidetracked by successive knee injuries. He ended up playing only half the season (22 games) and had nine goals. Leeds, who looked good for an automatic promotion place for most of the season, had a late stumble and eventually fell short of promotion in the play-offs that year.
Bamford would return with a strong second season, though, arguably the best of his career. He would play in 45 of their 46 matches (starting 43) and finished as the team’s leading scorer with 16 goals as Leeds won the Championship by 10 points.
Bamford actually should have scored much more than 16 goals. He had 141 shots, which was third in the division, but he was a bit unlucky not to convert more of those chances into goals. And aside from his goalscoring, Bamford also played the pressing part of Bielsa’s system expertly, which was a key factor in Leeds’ success.
Bamford’s performance during Leeds’ title-winning season was a reminder of the immense talent which saw him make the move to Chelsea as a teen. The next step is for Bamford to fulfil that potential in the Premier League level, which seemed like a step too far for him in the past.
The early returns with Leeds have been promising. He’s already provided some Premier League 2020 highlights with three goals in his first five games as the Whites have made a decent start to their top-flight return.
It certainly has been a challenging journey for Bamford, who has had to overcome some tough obstacles in his career. But he now has a chance to finally show his best form in the top flight for Leeds United, who will be counting on their star centre-forward to help defy the Premier League 2020 odds and fire them up the table.
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