When Leeds United steamrolled their way to Championship glory last season and booked their place back in the Premier League for the first time in 16 years, one position that many pundits and punters alike claimed that Marcelo Bielsa needed to improve was their striker.
Patrick Bamford, who scored 16 goals in 45 Championship appearances last season, was deemed by many onlookers as not good enough for the Premier League.
You could argue that the criticism surrounding Bamford, at the time, was fair. After all, he had already had several loan spells in England’s top-flight, at the likes of Crystal Palace, Norwich, and Burnley, and failed to find the net for any of them.
It wasn’t until he signed permanently for Middlesbrough that he finally scored a Premier League goal, and even then, he scored just once in eight appearances for Boro – taking his top-flight record to just one goal in 27 games.
Even last season, Bamford’s 16 goals may have made him Leeds’ top scorer, but he ranked just eighth in the race for the Championship Golden Boot, and he was often on the receiving end of flak for being wasteful of the chances being created for him.
In fact, when statisticians Opta crunched the numbers, they found that no other player in England’s second tier had more ‘big chances’ than Bamford (44), and of those whopping attempts, he failed to score on a massive 34 occasions, and he finished the season with the lowest shot conversion rate (12.8%).
The 27-year-old didn’t shy away from his critics in the summer, quote tweeting an article from TalkSPORT questioning if he was good enough to start for Leeds in the Premier League, and thus far he has proved he is more than capable.
And so it starts ??? https://t.co/ABM22xLfa5
— Patrick Bamford (@Patrick_Bamford) July 20, 2020
In Leeds’ first game of the season, a 4-3 thriller away to Premier League Champions Liverpool, Bamford was heavily involved in the free-scoring first half, bagging the goal that made it 2-2 in the 30th minute.
The 27-year-old followed that up with back-to-back strikes against Fulham, in what was another 4-3 thriller – this time in Leeds’ favour – and Sheffield United, netting a late winner in the 1-0 victory.
Bamford failed to find the net in the draw against Manchester City and the defeat against Wolverhampton Wanderers, but made up for it with a stunning second-half hat-trick against Aston Villa, the standout goal being his second as he found the top corner from the edge of the box.
Since then, Bamford has scored in the 3-1 defeat to Palace and the 4-1 loss on his return to Stamford Bridge, taking the ball around Chelsea goalkeeper Édouard Mendy and firing Leeds into an early 1-0 lead, but Frank Lampard’s side, who are now one of the favourites to win the title in the latest Premier League betting, had other ideas.
His recent goal against the Blues, who he signed for as a teenager in 2012, took his tally for the season to an impressive eight goals in 11 league games, and Bamford admitted that he has been focusing on proving his ability so far this season.
“So far this season it’s also been about proving to myself that I was right that I can play at this level and I can cope with the demands of the Premier League,” the striker said.
“After that, I guess proving anybody else wrong is a bit of a bonus.”
Credit where credit is due for Bamford. His goalscoring prowess has proved most of us wrong so far this season, and he has even confined Leeds’ record-signing and Spain’s starting striker Rodrigo to the bench!