It was somewhat unsurprising to see Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho in the headlines this week as his side prepared for their Champions League tie with Galatasaray. Mourinho had been secretly recorded lamenting the poor form of his strikers and he was typically outspoken in scolding the journalist who leaked his private conversation, where he was heard to express doubts over the age of Samuel Eto’o, without permission.
To avoid getting into a discussion on journalism ethics, it was hard to get away from the fact that the Portuguese manager did have a point. The 3 strikers at his disposal, Fernando Torres, Demba Ba and Eto’o have a paltry 19 goals between them in all competitions, leaving Chelsea to largely rely on the majestic ability of Eden Hazard, Willian and Oscar operating behind them. Romelu Lukaku has managed 9 league goals on his loan spell at Everton but is currently experiencing a goal drought having scored just 1 in his past 10 games.
Not all Chelsea strikers are facing struggles in front of goal however as Patrick Bamford, the 20 year old on loan at Derby County, hit his 22nd goal of the season last Tuesday night to earn a 0-1 win away at Sheffield Wednesday. An ability to score consistently in the Championship is unlikely to register on Mourinho’s radar if he begins to search for another striker, and unlikelier still is an ability to hit form in League One, like Bamford did earlier in the year with MK Dons, though it has been enough to earn his second call to the England Under-21 squad for the fixture with Wales.
It hasn’t been so previously simple for England under-21 coach Gareth Southgate though as Bamford qualified for Republic of Ireland, whom he represented once at under-18 level, through his grandparents. The Football Association of Ireland were keen to call up the Lincolnshire born attacker into their under-21 squad though after being capped at under-18 and then under-19 level for England, it seems as if Bamford has chosen the country of his birth.
It was as a youngster at Nottingham Forest, where he was first noticed on a national level, impressing with his form in the reserve and academy sides to earn a call to the under-18’s tie with Poland. He was also impressing the staff at Forest, with whom he signed at the academy at the age of 8, who granted him a couple of substitute appearances before he truly indicated his potential with a fantastic display in the Youth Cup at Wigan, scoring 5 goals and setting up a further 3. He then hit another 4 against Southampton the following week.
The teenager had only played 12 professional minutes for Forest before Chelsea signed him for £1.5 million on deadline day in January 2012. After being allowed to train with the first team squad just a week after he joined, his impact was immediate in the reserve sides as he scored twice on his début in a match with Gillingham.
For the striker though, it was all about his own development and he was under no illusion of how he should do it,
“It’s is about getting experience and developing. The best way to do that is to go out on loan to play first-team football,” he said.
It was testament to Bamford’s ambition that he was willing to get out and play first-team football as soon as he could.
“You can develop a lot playing with Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto’o, Frank Lampard, Oscar, and the others, but you still need to be playing games. As a young guy that is the most important” he said, “It’s all about development so I am ready to play in Chelsea’s first team – that’s the main aim.”
It was in November that year when he headed out on loan to MK Dons and again Bamford wasted no time in showcasing his talents, setting up three goals on his début It prompted Dons manager Karl Robinson to extend his initial 2 month loan spell until the end of the season and although he got his first professional goal against Crewe Alexandra at Gresty Road, he suffered a hamstring injury which curtailed his progress at the Dons for that season. He ended the season with the club having scored 4 goals from 14 games.
In the summer Chelsea allowed him to return to the Dons and after spending pre-season with the League One club, his second spell was much more successful, boasting a record of 14 goals from 23 goals by January. He also won the The Football League’s Young Player of the Year award for December.
This led to interest from clubs higher up in the league pyramid and Robinson, who spoke glowingly of the striker, revealed that he would not be re-joining Dons.
“The boy’s disappointed, we’re disappointed but you’ve got to be respectful to Chelsea. It’s not a case of anything we’ve done wrong, instead Chelsea has thanked us for everything we’ve done and they’ve said they couldn’t have wished for the loan deal to go any better.
Whoever does get his signature will be getting a very, very talented footballer. We wish him luck, he’s a wonderful boy and he’s somebody who I’ll always stay in contact with and one day, hopefully work with again.”
The club who did get his signature was Derby after Chelsea saw positive links with manager Steve McClaren.
“Chelsea were big fans and knew how Steve worked. Michael Emenalo knew Steve from his time at FC Twente and said he was a great coach and I would develop and come on leaps and bounds” said Bamford and again he made an immediate impact, scoring the winner against Brighton in his second appearance with a dipping effort from range. He has since netted 5 times in 7 games for the Rams to boost their promotion push, they now sit 3rd and just two points off an automatic promotion slot.
Standing at 6ft 1, Bamford is very dangerous in the air and this is shown by the 59% of headers he has won whilst at Derby. However, the 20 year old is far from a conventional striker, preferring instead to drop off centrally to use his power and balance to run at defenders through the middle of the pitch. This allows him to get shots away with his favoured left foot, trying his luck with 17 shots in the 8 games he has played at Derby, hitting the target with 7 of them.
In order to utilise his pace and energy, he was originally deployed on the left of a front 3 in his earlier career but as his confidence grew he was moved to a more central striking position, equally able to play as a traditional centre-forward or as an attacking midfielder, though he can be rather selfish with his play having created just 6 chances in his time at Derby. In his 8 appearances, Bamford has only made 89 successful passes at an accuracy rate of 71%, a poor return for a technical player who likes to be involved in all aspects of attacking moves, or one who can use his physicality to hold up play.
However the 20 year old is understandably full of confidence and not afraid to shoot on sight, proving his ability to score at both League One and Championship levels. His desire and willingness to reach Chelsea’s first team is driving him on and as Jose Mourinho’s indifference towards his strikers continues, they could do a lot worse than have a look at the 20 year old, “Bamfordinho” as he is known to Chelsea fans, who will be able to show his talents to the nation at Pride Park on Tuesday in the under-21 game against Wales.