Bamford’s career appeared not so sluggish to burn as all but extinguished, after five years on Chelsea’s books.
He didn’t make a first-team appearance and witnessed strained relationships with Pardew, Neil and Dyche during loan stints at Crystal Palace, Norwich and Burnley. He was sold to Middlesbrough in 2017 from Chelsea and then just a year after that to Leeds.
Bamford registered his career’s 100th professional goal as Leeds beat Crystal Palace last Monday. Those experts who had declared he was not a center-forward of the Premier League were absolutely silenced. This season it was his 12th in 22 top-tier games. And given that Harry Kane scored 13 and Jamie Vardy 12 emphasized precisely why the 27-year-old striker is now in contention for a call from England.
This metamorphosis is usually, and correctly, due to an amalgam of the coaching of Marcelo Bielsa and the suitability of Bamford to the default 4-1-4-1 system of Argentina.
He had returned to training with weakened knee ligaments after missing four early months of his first season in Leeds. Then he scored an almost unlikely audacious training volley. The usually impassive Bielsa surprised everyone as the ball hit the back of the net by lifting his arms in celebration and running, somewhat stiffly, 40 yards to hug the shocked striker.
It was the beginning of a partnership that would eventually help return Premier League football to Elland Lane, based on mutual confidence. “He’s seen something in me not many other coaches did,” says Bamford but, as Bielsa prepared to take his side to Arsenal on Sunday, he was typically reluctant to accept the compliment. “Bamford’s a complete mature professional,” said the Leeds manager.
“What indicates that is the amount of attention he pays when he plays. It’s very difficult to take him by surprise because he’s so focused. He’s been like this since I met him.”