Despite a disappointing denouement to his time at Middlesbrough, things look rosy for Patrick Bamford. No doubt he will be hoping that after a few seasons gallivanting around the country on loan, he’s finally done enough to get a ‘come hither’ look from Jose Mourinho.
Bamford has been prolific for a while now, starting with Nottingham Forest as a trainee and quickly impressing enough to earn himself a league debut for Forest in their last fixture of 2011 – a home defeat to Cardiff City. This after Steve Cotterill’s side had endured seven games without a goal. Another appearance 3 days later came at Ipswich Town as Forest finally broke their goal drought. But as far as the Reds were concerned, that would be it.
As the transfer window was about to calmly close – which made a change from it slamming shut – Chelsea took advantage of Forest’s cash woes and laid out 1.5 million big ones on the boardroom table. A day previously, Leicester City had prized local lad and seasoned campaigner Wes Morgan away for half a million pounds less than the Bamford fee. Forest fans felt a little miffed that they hadn’t seen more of this kid.
Loan spells away from Stamford Bridge allowed Bamford the opportunity to showcase his goal-scoring prowess. As the fulcrum of MK Dons’ neat and tidy approach play, he notched 18 goals in 37 appearances.
A short spell at Derby as they reached the Championship Play-Off final, followed by a season long loan at Middlesbrough have established Bamford as the go-to guy for teams with an eye on the big prize. A strike rate of nearly a goal every other game from his time out on loan is a seriously impressive return. Add to this the Championship Player of the Year Award sat on his mantelpiece and you are left with a highly desirable asset.
A battering ram in the mould of Didier Drogba or Diego Costa, he is not. With his spindly legs, quaffed hair and boyband handsome face, it would be easy to mistake Bamford as the Sixth Form Head Boy who wandered onto the pitch by mistake. But his willingness to close down defenders and to make intelligent runs in behind or across the back line has endeared him to fans of the clubs he has represented on loan.
It is interesting to note that although not a traditional target man, his role at all these clubs has been to spearhead a team pleasing on the eye when going forward. If you happen to manage a team who play lovely football but sometimes lack a cutting edge, get Commissioner Gordon to put the ‘Bam-signal’ in the sky.
But is all of this enough to give him a crack at the big time?
With Didier Drogba last seen exiting Stamford Bridge sat atop his team mates’ shoulders and Diego Costa’s hamstrings susceptible to being twanged beyond capacity – allied to his propensity to picking up a few suspensions during the course of a season – Bamford will fancy his chances of challenging Loic Remy for the right to tap in an Eden Hazard’s cross.
Much depends on Mourinho’s willingness to play the kid – still only 21 – in an experienced Premier League winning team. As we all know though, despite the occasional parading of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, the Happy One tends to like to stick to his tried and trusted lieutenants rather than put his faith in youth.
In light of this, the smart money would be on another season long loan to either a Championship club that has aspirations to be challenging at the top end of the table or a mid-table Premier League club. Or perhaps he’ll be asked to join the lengthy holding pattern of Chelsea youngsters swirling around GelreDome that is the home of Vitesse.
Maybe a few pre-season appearances in America against New York Red Bull, PSG and Barcelona in late July will nod Bamford towards either the Chelsea bench or to him packing his suitcase and preparing for another tiresome song to perform at an initiation ceremony to welcome new players at either Brentford, Swansea City or Bournemouth.
There’s a club out there for this talented young man – let’s hope he finds it soon.