Should the Leeds United striker be an outside shout for the England Squad?
Patrick Bamford netted his 100th goal of his career on Monday night as Leeds eased to a 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace at Elland Road. The 27 year old is enjoying life back in the top flight along with his teammates, with that victory taking Marcelo Bielsa’s side up to 10th in the table.
Despite doubts surrounding whether Bamford could cut it in the Premier League, after previous failed stints in the top flight, where he endured barren spells at Palace, Norwich and Burnley, he’s hit the ground running on Leeds’ return to the big time after a 16 year absence and is starting to gain the plaudits he deserves.
Often playing as a lone striker, Bamford is already in double figures for goals so far with a tally of 12 strikes in 22 Premier League appearances. In his current vein of form, Bamford is on course to match and maybe even eclipse his impressive 16 goal haul from last year, a figure which was crucial in helping to lift Leeds to the Championship title and promotion to the Premier League.
It’s not just Bamford’s goals which have drawn praise from various sections of the media, but his all round game. Whilst he may not be the most prolific, with his feeble attempt at dinking the ball over Vicente Guaita in the first half on Monday sailing well off target a clear example of this, he does well holding the ball up as a lone striker and bringing others into play as well as creating chances for his teammates.
His decision to unselfishly square the ball to Jack Harrison to allow him to tap into an empty net in Leeds’ recent win over Leicester was the striker’s sixth assist of the season and shows he is very much a team player.
He leads Leeds’ press and works tirelessly for the cause, with his direct running into the channels, great strength despite his seemingly slender stature and his aerial threat, some other key attributes.
His dozen strikes so far places him as the third highest scoring Englishman in the league this campaign, with only Harry Kane and Dominic Calvert-Lewin ahead of him by a single goal.
Whilst those two, (barring injury), are nailed on inclusions for Gareth Southgate’s 23-man squad for the European Championships scheduled to take place this summer, the third space reserved on the plane for a striker is seemingly still up for grabs, and the uncapped Bamford should be worth mentioning.
The forward is not ruling out a first senior call up for World Cup qualifiers in March, ahead of the Euro tournament which kicks off in June, although was coy on his prospects of it coming in the next few months, telling Sky Sports after Monday’s game, “If you had said that at the start of the season I would’ve brushed it off and said ‘you’re mad’, but now people are talking about it.
“We have four or five strikers that have not been involved in the England squad many times and they are doing well so it will be interesting to see who gets called up.”
Rumours of the Nottingham born striker earning a first England call up does seem ‘mad’ when one remembers that Bamford was on the cusp of switching international allegiances and declaring for the Republic of Ireland just 18 months ago.
Then Ireland boss Mick McCarthy was so confident that Bamford, who qualifies to play for the Boys in Green through his grandmother and who played one game for Ireland’s U18s in 2010, would make the switch, he told the the Irish Independent in March 2019:
“I asked him the question ‘Do you still want to join us?’ – ‘Yes’ was the answer. I’m hoping to meet him. I haven’t given up on it at all.”
Bamford ended up snubbing a call up from McCarthy for Ireland’s games later in June that year to focus on Leeds and whilst he stated he, “hasn’t closed any doors” he recently reiterated his desire to represent England in an interview for Talksport, saying it would “be a dream come true” to play for the Three Lions.
Bamford has played for England at U18, U19 and U21 level, with his last cap for the Young Lions coming in 2014. He has never been in consideration for the Three Lions senior squad, until now.
At 27, there is no doubt he is a late bloomer, but the same can be said for two of his rivals Danny Ings and Callum Wilson who are both 28. Those two strikers, along with Tammy Abraham and Bamford, appear to be the four players battling it out for the final forward spot in the squad, if Southgate does opt to bring three strikers. Based on selection from previous tournaments, it seems that this will be the case.
For the 2018 World Cup Southgate chose three out and out strikers (Kane, Jamie Vardy and Danny Welbeck) as well as two versatile wide forward players in Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling. Again barring injury, Rashford and Sterling are automatic picks for Southgate given their respective forms for both Manchester clubs this season, leaving one more space for a goal hungry striker.
Of the aforementioned quartet only Bamford (12) and Wilson (10) have hit double figures for goals so far this term. Ings has seven goals and three assists whilst Abraham has six goals and two assists.
Bamford, along with Abraham also boasts the best injury record out of the four. He hasn’t suffered any injury problems in the last two seasons, whilst Abraham has avoided any major absences so far this campaign.
Ings’ injury woes have been well documented. He has remained fit for the majority of the current campaign but did sustain a hamstring injury in December, which saw him miss a number of Southampton’s festive fixtures.
Wilson has similarly suffered a succession of serious injuries like Ings, but had been firing on all cylinders for Newcastle until recently when he limped off against Ings’ side Southampton on Saturday with a hamstring tear.
He has been dealt a sickening blow after the club confirmed he will be ruled out for 6-8 weeks and Wilson now faces a race to build up full fitness ahead of England’s first group game with Scotland on 18th June.
Bamford is the least experienced striker and the only one not to have won an England cap with Ings having 13 caps and Wilson and Abraham amassing four each. It was the Chelsea striker who got the nod and was named in Southgate’s last England squad in November at the expense of the other three.
Abraham has struggled recently under new boss Thomas Tuchel and although Southgate seems to be a fan of his, on current form he doesn’t merit an inclusion. With Wilson, it will be a case of whether he can prove he is up to full fitness and can last the duration of such an intense tournament when he makes his return to action.
Mason Greenwood is another left wing shout who could be included. His form has fluctuated this campaign after his breakout half season last year, and Southgate may wait until after the Euros before trying to integrate him fully into the senior set up.
It therefore seems like it will be a straight shootout between Ings or Bamford for a place on the plane. Ings may just edge the individual battle, if he can keep fit, as he is viewed as the better striker all round, particularly when it comes to his expert finishing ability and given he has been in and around the England set up before.
Bamford at least deserves a call up to the squad ahead of March’s World Cup qualifiers to give Southgate the chance to assess him up close in training and maybe even in games before making his final decision for the Euro squad.
It’s a nice conundrum for Southgate to have and his inclusion in discussion for selection for England caps quite the rise for Bamford, who just last year, was deemed not good enough to lead the line for Leeds in the Championship.
Now he’s scoring goals for fun in the Premier League and could be afforded the chance to make his mark on the international stage very soon.