Having scored 19 goals and helping fire Middlesbrough to the play-off’s last term, the 22-year-old is facing a tricky predicament in south London – on loan from struggling Premier League champions Chelsea.
Admittedly, Boro cruelly fell at the last hurdle in the final at Wembley, but they’ll be strong favourites to eventually secure their place amongst the top sides in England this term – and they’ll be collectively stronger for the experience.
A talented youngster on-show
After impressing for Nottingham Forest in the FA Youth Cup, Chelsea were excited by the then-teenager, and didn’t hesitate to snap him up into their own ranks. So in 2012, for £1.5million pounds, Bamford was officially a Chelsea player. Signing a five-year contract, he initially started well within the reserve setup, before earning a loan spell to various clubs in search of competitive football.
The idea has always been, for the most part, to give young players the adequate experience they need to return to their parent clubs with the hunger and ability to establish first-team credentials. In a star-studded team such as Chelsea’s, you have to be immensely talented for even scouts, staff and respective coaches to look at you, let alone being able to sign professional terms.
Last term was Bamford’s best…
The 2014/15 campaign was a breakout season for Bamford in terms of his overall development. He still doesn’t look the finished article yet, but the signs of progression were there: agility, strength, intelligent movement in-behind defences, flashes of flair as well as most importantly, the goals to show for it.
So you could excuse Patrick’s probable reaction to the news that José Mourinho had signed Radamel Falcao on a season-long loan deal from AS Monaco. Injuries have seen the Colombian forward’s confidence drop, and his performances have suffered for it.
After a forgettable season at Louis van Gaal‘s transitional Manchester United side, Mourinho vowed to try and help Falcao restore his world-class ability, which was infamously quiet for large parts of the previous season.
…But now he’s not getting many chances
Bamford was consequently loaned out to fellow Premier League side Crystal Palace, in east London. Upon the surface, this deal didn’t look like a particularly bad decision given the circumstances – but at the same time, just a few months into it, the cracks are gradually starting to appear.
With plenty of viable attacking options at Alan Pardew‘s disposal, you’d be naïve to expect Bamford would be consistently starting just on merit from his success at the Riverside. Potentially three or four forwards ahead of him in the pecking order, he would have been told, it wouldn’t be easy.
It hasn’t been. So far this term, Bamford has been restricted to a mere 56 minutes of Premier League football. Regularly being named in the matchday squad, he can rarely seem to get his opportunity off the substitutes’ bench, and it’s understandably hurting his confidence too.
“It has been a frustrating time for me – I am not the same person when I am not playing football all the time. I would say this has been one of the most upsetting times since I have been playing football.”
Chelsea are struggling, Patrick is too
Seeing his parent club Chelsea, struggling quite remarkably, will feel bittersweet for Bamford. On the one hand, he’ll feel frustrated that he has not been given his chance centre-stage yet, but also, he’ll take positives from the fact that when he does eventually return from his spell, he’ll get his opportunity.
After all, their options are looking increasingly bare at the moment. The talented attacking trio of Dominic Solanke, Isaiah Brown and Islam Feruz are all out on respective loan spells elsewhere away from Stamford Bridge – but they are expected to lead the club in the not-too-distant future.
That’s not to mention the likes of Tammy Abraham, Charly Musonda and Iké Ugbo, who are all showing signs of individual brilliance to suggest they’re all gems in a never-ending production line in west London.
If you see the direction I’m heading towards, you’ll recognise the aforementioned six players are relatively young, even in comparison to Bamford. The oldest, is 19. Bamford turned 22 back in September. The point is, he needs to be patient and keep working hard but also be quietly weary of the competition he has to battle with for a starting berth in the future.
“I have been doing all I can to get in the team and, hopefully, with the work I have been doing over the last few weeks I might get a few more chances.”
As Tim Notke once said, hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.