Patrick Bamford netted 16 times and provided four assists during the 2019/20 season to help guide Leeds back to the big time. But despite this, there were still major doubts as to whether he had the quality to be the leading striker for the Whites in the Premier League.
And, in truth, these reservations were justified. After all, this was a player who managed the grand total of one goal in 27 appearances in England’s top flight prior to the 2020/21 season.
Bamford’s place in the starting lineup was even called into question when the Peacocks were able to seal a deal for Spain international Rodrigo. Indeed, many were expecting the former Valencia forward to come in and simply replace Bamford up front.
But the 27-year-old has quickly proven all his doubters wrong.
The striker has netted seven times and provided a further two assists in just eight Premier League games, meaning he is just one goal behind the division’s leading scorers. It’s been a sensational start to the campaign which not many had seen coming.
Bamford is playing with such confidence in his game and assurance, with his most recent strike being a prime example. While Leeds were unusually flat in the defeat to Crystal Palace last time out, Bamford couldn’t have done much more up front, getting his name on the scoresheet and seeing another strike wrongly disallowed.
The goal that did stand was expertly taken, letting the ball drop off his chest before ruthlessly firing into the bottom corner with his left foot. It was a finish of the highest quality and what will have been most reassuring for Leeds fans was that he never looked like he was going to miss the chance either.
Bamford is playing some of the best football of his career and he must be rewarded for it. Everton forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin has taken his chance to shine for England during the last international break after an outstanding start to the season, and the same opportunity should now be given to the Leeds striker as well.
Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate opted to stick with the same group of forwards he had selected for the last squad, despite Bamford’s form. But with Marcus Rashford struggling for fitness after picking up an injury during Manchester United’s 3-1 win over Everton recently, the boss is now considering calling Bamford up to replace the 23-year-old – should he withdraw.
It remains to be seen whether Southgate will turn to the former Chelsea man even if Rashford does depart the camp early, but this is a player playing at the top of his game and is proving his worth in the Premier League week-in, week-out.
Southgate has prided himself not only on not shying away from giving youth a chance, but also on handing opportunities and call ups to players based on their form. Bamford is one of the most in-form players in England and would bring a different dimension to the England attack.
So much more than just an out-and-out goalscorer, Bamford has proven to be a real handful to deal with off the ball during the early parts of the season. We only need to look at the first game of the campaign to see that Virgil van Dijk somewhat underestimated the striker’s movement and reading of the game, and was made to pay the price for this.
Now, of course we’re not saying Bamford should be a regular starter for England – he may not even start a game if he is called up to replace Rashford or even during the next international break. But he is a very different type of striker to Harry Kane, Calvert-Lewin and Tammy Abraham, and he could be an excellent option to have when needed.
Indeed, when England found themselves 1-0 down to Denmark in October and in need of a goal, Calvert-Lewin came on and made a positive contribution with his aerial ability. But the game was crying out for a player like Bamford to drag a defender away and open up the space, or to simply make a run in behind. This is what Bamford specialises in, and he could thrive with the service of Kane, Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho.
Having proven so many people wrong so far this term, Bamford has more than earned himself an England call-up and the chance to showcase his talent on the international stage. Southgate must reward him for his performances soon as he could be a very useful addition to the squad.