“Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck?”, Dalai Lama XIV
As Patrick Bamford clinically finished his and Middlesbrough’s third goal on a frosty Friday night to confirm a comfortable 3-0 win over Leeds United, I wonder if the Dalai Lama’s words were echoing around Tony Pulis’ head?
Time and again the direct running of Adama Traore drew white shirts to him like moths to a light.
This created space for the clever off the ball runs of Bamford to exploit before he pulled the trigger to execute Leeds once, twice and thrice. The result was the most convincing performance of Pulis’s reign and perhaps the season to date.
To those Sky Sports viewers not privy to Pulis’s early weeks in charge Boro’s attacking tandem of Bamford and Traore may seem like intelligent design.
The truth, however, is more one of happy circumstance. Pulis was quick to recognise the talents of Traore and bring them to the fore. He should be commended for that.
The central striker role though has proven to be somewhat trickier for Tony.
Pulis made his mind up fairly quickly that top scorer Britt Assombalonga was not his cup of tea. This meant that Rudy Gestede, a stereotypical Pulis towering striker, was chosen to lead the line.
This always felt like a compromise until Pulis could bring his own pick in and so it proved with only a WhatsApp intervention preventing him from landing Aleksander Mitrovic, who has been on fire since his loan move to play-off rivals Fulham.
The end of the transfer window and the associated speculation meant that Rudy couldn’t fail and he promptly bagged a brace at home to Hull. And promptly fractured his ankle.
Pulis needed a Plan B. A Plan Bamford.
All the while Bamford, who I believe is the most technically gifted footballer at Boro, had been shunted out on the left wing, a position that showcases his weaknesses and fails to exploit his strengths.
He had looked a shadow of the player that grabbed goals and the Championship Player of the Season award during his first spell at Boro.
But his brace in the disappointing 3-3 draw at Sunderland, including a sublime finish that evoked memories of the Bamford at old, resulted in him being given the nod to lead the line against Leeds.
He did not disappoint, blasting his first Boro hat-trick, before grabbing another in the club’s 3-1 victory over Barnsley on Saturday.
The restoration of Bamford to his favoured central striking position also elicited a tweak in the Pulis playing style.
Gone were the long balls that had previously been blasted up to Gestede. Instead, Boro tried to play the ball a bit higher up the pitch and that coupled with the Traore-Bamford tandem tore Leeds apart resulting in a win and a style of footballer that is easier on the eye.
In football, luck can be more important than judgment.
If Traore and Bamford stay fit and on form, Tony Pulis and Boro may look back and thank the day that Slavisa Jokanovic casually dropped Mitrovic a WhatsApp message.