‘One coach said he was impressed by how hard I worked – since my dad was a billionaire!’: Leeds striker Patrick Bamford, whose father is actually an architect from Newark, on fighting prejudice that he’s too posh to be a proper footballer
- Patrick Bamford tells Sportsmail he finally feels at home with Leeds United
- The striker comes from a privileged background and is different to most players
- Bamford turned down a place at Harvard and can speak multiple languages
- He was mocked at Burnley for his background but Leeds staff embrace it now
- The 27-year-old has 12 goals in 22 Leeds games this term ahead of trip to Arsenal
Sometimes, the search for acceptance can last a lifetime. It can consume a person and still elude them.
However hard he tried, Patrick Bamford could never find it during his years wandering the English leagues as part of the great Chelsea loan diaspora but the game’s sudden and enthusiastic embrace of him at the age of 27 has become one of the best and happiest stories of this strange season.
The distrust of Bamford as a footballer was about more than the chances they said he missed before he arrived in the Premier League with Leeds United and Marcelo Bielsa.
Patrick Bamford finally feels at home with Leeds after years of feeling out of place in football
Bamford in Leeds’ top scorer this season with 12 goals in 22 league games for the Whites
It was the way he ran, the way he spoke and where he came from. It was the fact that he once turned down a place at Harvard, that he could play a musical instrument and speak a second language.
When English football, which nurses a deep-seated suspicion of difference, convened in judgment on Bamford, it decided there was something that simply did not sit right. It decided there was an otherness about him.
A generation ago, Graeme Le Saux was regarded as an island within the game, partly because he read The Guardian on the Chelsea team bus. Bamford never did anything as openly challenging to the system as that. It was just that he was considered too posh to push. He had had a private education so people assumed he lacked hunger, that he did not want it enough.
Some regarded him with curiosity. Others with hostility. He had a short and unhappy spell with Burnley in 2016. The problems there began, unbeknown to Bamford, when he took his parents with him to Turf Moor so they could see him signing for the club on a year’s loan. Sean Dyche, the Burnley manager, did not consider that a good omen.
Bamford came from a privileged background and even turned down a place at Harvard
Bamford admits his background became an issue while on loan at Sean Dyche’s Burnley
‘It wasn’t an issue at Burnley until I started asking why I wasn’t playing,’ Bamford says, ‘and then the manager started citing other reasons: “born with a silver spoon in your mouth”, “listening to too many people influencing you outside of football”.
‘When I asked for an example, the answer was “who did you arrive with when you signed on your first day?” I said “my mum and dad” and he said “exactly”. Then I started getting defensive. I didn’t think that was right.’
And because he did not quite conform to the norm, myths quickly grew up around him just as they had around Le Saux. It was said that Bamford was a distant relative of JCB chairman Anthony Bamford and that detail soon became exaggerated.
‘The players and staff had a get-together after we’d won promotion at Leeds,’ says Bamford, smiling, ‘and one of Marcelo’s assistants came up to me and congratulated me.
Bamford claimed one Leeds coach became fascinated by his background last season
‘While he was talking to me, he said that he was fascinated by how hard I worked and that he was so impressed, especially as my dad was a billionaire. I didn’t have the heart to tell him my dad was an architect from Newark. He’s just a regular bloke. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Newark but it’s not the most affluent place in the country.’
Now, finally, that has all changed. Now Bamford is appreciated. He has found acceptance. Now there is talk of an England call-up. Now his name is up in lights in the scoring charts, ahead of Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling and Callum Wilson, level with Jamie Vardy and one behind Tottenham’s Harry Kane.
After he scored his 12th league goal of the season in Leeds’ 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace at Elland Road last week, he was feted by Jamie Carragher and Chris Coleman on Sky’s Monday Night Football show.
The neat finish, after Bamford had chased and harried the Palace defence into a mistake a few seconds earlier, was also the 100th goal of Bamford’s career. It felt like a landmark for many reasons.
The 27-year-old’s latest Premier League goal came last Monday against Crystal Palace (above)
Bamford is in the form of his career after years of loan spells during his time at Chelsea
In a live post-match interview, Carragher and Bamford laughed and joked like they were old pals and Carragher said he would love to see Bamford get an England call-up next month. Bamford was such a hit that all agreed it would be great to have him on again. Football was celebrating him.
Everybody likes him now. It is as if the fans are seeing the real him for the first time, not just as a player but as a man, too.
‘I have tried to show since I arrived at Leeds that I am one of them,’ says Bamford, ‘that I’m a normal guy, that I’m not afraid to work hard and get my hands dirty.
‘I’m not afraid to try to fit in and show I’m relatable and I’m not this guy who sees himself as above everyone else, I am willing to help out and be part of the community I live in.
‘I had an iffy period with the Leeds fans in my first season but my rapport with them now is strong and they see how much I work for the shirt and how proud I am to wear it.’
Bamford admitted he clashed with some Leeds fans during his first season at Elland Road
… PRIVATE SCHOOL
There was always that stigma because I went to private school. People assume I have never had to work for anything, which is total nonsense. They think everything comes easy to you and that you take everything for granted. There was this misconception that I’m a really posh guy. The truth is I’m not. My parents went without sometimes to provide for me and my sisters and that’s why it does anger me when people think it’s been handed to me and my family gets it easy when it’s not like that.
The idea of being selected for England is a dream. I thought about it before the last squad was announced and I didn’t sleep properly the night before because I was wondering whether it was going to happen or not. I am probably a bit down the pecking order but I just have to keep doing my thing. If I got one England cap in the whole of my career, I’d be over the moon with that and it would be something I’d cherish.
The idea of going to play football at an American university was in case I didn’t get a professional contract with a club in England. The first university we got in touch with was in Connecticut and, once word got round, Harvard offered me a place. It sounds ridiculous to say Harvard was a back-up plan but, having dreamt of being a football player, there was never the priority to go to university.
If he has won admiration for initiatives like donating £5,000 last month to a Leeds primary school to buy iPads for remote learning, he has also won rave reviews for the way he has led the line with his club. Leeds under Bielsa play a brand of football that often takes the breath away and Bamford has been an integral part of that.
To many, the third goal they scored against Leicester City a fortnight ago, which was lit up by Bamford’s unselfishness, epitomised so much that is good about Leeds and about football.
It started when Leeds, 2-1 up with six minutes to go, defended a free-kick on the edge of their own area. It was headed clear and Stuart Dallas controlled the ball and played it forward for Mateusz Klich. Klich clipped a pass down the line to Bamford, who ran on to it just inside the Leicester half and found himself clean through.
With only Kasper Schmeichel to beat, Bamford did something unusual. Instead of scoring himself, he played a square pass. His recollection of his thought process shines a light on the Leeds way.
‘Ever since I was a young kid,’ says Bamford. ‘My dad always said that if someone is in a better position than me, sometimes you look better giving the pass than you do trying to take the goal on. That’s something that’s always stuck with me.
‘Growing up watching the great Barcelona team under [Pep] Guardiola, the number of goals they used to score where it was just an unselfish pass across the goal for their team-mate to tap in… I always admired that kind of goal.
‘When I ran on to that through ball against Leicester, I glanced back and saw Jack Harrison sprinting behind me and to my right and I knew Jack would be able to catch up and so as soon as I took my first touch, I knew I was going to pass it. It was just making sure I didn’t hash up the pass and that I committed the keeper enough so it was a simple tap-in for Jack.
‘I’d already scored in that game but I would have done what I did whether I’d scored or not. Leeds’ slogan is “Side Before Self”. That should be the mantra for every team. Ultimately, putting the team first is going to help everyone individually.’
The pick of Bamford’s goals this season came in Leeds’ brilliant victory away at Leicester City
The forward has spoken of his desire to be an unselfish player and put the team first
It is tempting to think that part of the reason for his transformation under Bielsa — and indeed the blossoming of players such as Kalvin Phillips, Dallas and Luke Ayling — is that the coach arrived at Elland Road unencumbered by any of the misconceptions that English coaches may have harboured about him.
Bamford says it is not that simple. ‘For Marcelo,’ says Bamford, ‘I think the key things are: are you a good human being, do you have good morals, are you humble, are you willing to work hard and learn. Anything that has happened in your life or that you have been part of doesn’t mean anything if you’re willing to do the things he needs.
‘A lot of it is down to his coaching and his coaching staff, the way that he wants to always help you and push you.
‘But the players have to take a small portion of the credit because, in order to want to improve, you have to be a certain type of human and you have to be willing to learn.
‘There might be a lot of players, good players maybe, that wouldn’t work well under Marcelo because they perhaps had an ego that was too big or they thought they had nothing to learn and that they were the finished article and they had already made it. That is the brilliance of this group: everyone is eager to get better. The proof is in the pudding.
Bamford (middle) praised Marcelo Bielsa (right) for looking at a footballer’s human nature
‘Everyone knows by the way he has transformed players from where they were to where they are now, that if you stick with him and you stick with his methods, you are going to keep growing. I can’t speak highly enough of him. I have never seen a manager shape players in the way he does.
‘I have been working with him for three years and things like the sharp movements when there are small spaces to get in behind, to get the little movements in the box, to get away from your marker in the box, through the drills and the training, he has been trying to instil those things in me for the last couple of years. Now it is starting to click properly.
‘Other things take a shorter time because they are more about being switched on and focused. We have a lot of meetings as a team. The meetings all have their primary purpose, to teach you about the team you are going to play or pick up lessons from the match you have just played but also there is a message underneath, which is teaching you concentration.
‘In the meetings, you have to be switched on. You can almost be a bit bored sometimes because there are a lot of meetings and you know what the brain’s like. I think that secretly he’s teaching us concentration and focus. To stay in tune with the whole match, every minute, that’s something you take for granted and it should come naturally but it doesn’t and that’s something I have picked up.’
Next up for Bamford and Leeds is Arsenal at the Emirates this afternoon, a club once the standard-bearers for cerebral, attractive football in this country under Arsene Wenger.
Leeds and Bamford’s (right) next league challenge is a trip to Arsenal on Sunday afternoon
That mantle now belongs most of all to Leeds and Manchester City, and Bamford, the personification of Bielsa’s philosophy in his time in England, is eager to seize his moment now that it is here.
‘I am quite a quietly confident guy,’ he says. ‘I have always believed in myself. I wouldn’t ever speak it out loud but I have always believed within myself that I was good enough to play at this level and to be a top striker.
‘There are always going to be doubters, there are always going to be people who say that even if I finish this season this year with 20 goals, they’ll say I’m a one-season wonder. Then you’ve got to start all over again.
‘So no matter what you do, there will be people who doubt you. I’m not too interested about proving people wrong who have doubted me. It’s more about proving myself right.
‘Proving to myself that I was right in what I was thinking and how I felt and how I believed in myself, just push as far as I can and see how far I can get.’
Share this article
Source: Read Full Article