Home Sport Patrick Bamford talks to Jamie Redknapp about Marcelo Bielsa, England chances and...

Patrick Bamford talks to Jamie Redknapp about Marcelo Bielsa, England chances and silver spoon jibes


The laugh and shake of the head from Patrick Bamford sums up the absurdity of the suggestion. 

Leeds United’s No 9 has just been asked whether Marcelo Bielsa is secretly warm and cuddly with his players, like his Liverpool counterpart Jurgen Klopp.

‘No,’ Bamford tells Sportsmail’s Jamie Redknapp, smiling as he discusses the Argentine who has captured the hearts of the city of Leeds. ‘He likes to keep the relationship professional. He demands respect.

Patrick Bamford has opened up to Sportsmail's Jamie Redknapp about his start to the season

Patrick Bamford has opened up to Sportsmail’s Jamie Redknapp about his start to the season

The forward has three goals in his first four matches as Leeds' main Premier League striker

The forward has three goals in his first four matches as Leeds’ main Premier League striker

‘There might have been times when you’ve gone to the manager’s office and asked: “Why aren’t I playing?” Literally, no one goes to his office. If you’re not playing, you take it. You don’t ask why.’

It is an intriguing glimpse into life under football’s most fascinating manager — the man who, Leeds hope, can guide them into Europe.

As Bamford explains, it is ‘limitless’ what these players believe they can achieve under the tactician known as El Loco (The Crazy One). 

They are back in the Premier League after 16 years away, and they are ready to rock it. Sportsmail’s Kieran Gill listened in…

REDKNAPP: I can’t imagine getting a Bielsa bear-hug. Can you sum up your boss for me?

BAMFORD: (smiling) He’s not stand-offish but he likes to keep it professional. He won’t get close to a certain player. He keeps everyone at arm’s length. If we win, he won’t say anything. 

He will come in, give everyone a hug or a high five, then walk back out. If we lose, he will pace up and down the dressing room, speaking in Spanish and Diego (Flores, Bielsa’s assistant) will translate what he’s saying. He never goes mad straight after the game.

Bamford said Marcelo Bielsa demands respect and that players don't question his decisions

Bamford said Marcelo Bielsa demands respect and that players don’t question his decisions

REDKNAPP: I’m slightly surprised he isn’t one for the hairdryer after matches. Arsene Wenger didn’t do that, either — he thought emotions were too raw and it could only do damage. How would you describe Bielsa in training?

BAMFORD: He’s very… 100 per cent. To the point where, if his staff aren’t putting cones out to the exact centimetre, they get an earful. He wants everything to be perfect, the way it is in his head.

One game, he said to us beforehand: ‘It is going to go like this. This is how they will score against us. But then this is how we will score against them.’ 

We ended up winning 2-1, and everything that happened went as he said! If you had an hour to sit with him, you could learn so much.

Bielsa gives his coaches an ear full if a cone is misplaced by a centimetre, Bamford revealed

REDKNAPP: I love the way you play but it’s your fitness levels I admire the most. You’re out-working teams in the Premier League as well as out-playing them.

BAMFORD: He is the hardest trainer I’ve ever had. Pre-season, you are told to run a kilometre as fast as you can and Marcelo has certain times. If you can’t get under this time, you won’t play.

But get under this time and you’re good. Mid-season, if we’ve got a game on the Saturday, we’ll do running on the Monday, a technical session on the Tuesday, but then Wednesday…

REDKNAPP: What happens on a Wednesday?

BAMFORD: We call it ‘Murderball’.

REDKNAPP: What does that involve?

Bamford joked how Leeds' 'Murderball' training game tires him out during sessions

Bamford joked how Leeds’ ‘Murderball’ training game tires him out during sessions

BAMFORD: It’s 11 v 11, on a full-sized pitch and every player has his own cone. As soon as the ball goes out of play, wherever you are, you sprint back to your cone. Then the ball is chucked in somewhere and you go again. 

It’s constant sprinting. I heard Kyle Walker describe the way we play as being like basketball. ‘Murderball’ is basketball. It’s man to man. If your man runs, you better be running with him.

REDKNAPP: That’s similar to an 11 v 11 session my dad used to like. Say we’re on opposite sides, I can only tackle you, and you can only tackle me. 

It’s a killer. The experienced players might come to an agreement with each other: ‘You don’t run and I won’t, either.’ 

Bamford describes the Leeds training game used by Bielsa as 'a killer' but great for fitness

Bamford describes the Leeds training game used by Bielsa as ‘a killer’ but great for fitness

If you’re paired with a young lad who’s trying to impress, you’re in trouble! It was so good for fitness.

BAMFORD: It’s non-stop. The coaches don’t stand on the touchline, either. There are five of them in the middle of the pitch. You’re having to dodge them and they’re watching everything. There’s no let-up. But Marcelo has taken my game to another level.

Humans can get into that comfort zone where you think ‘I’m doing all right’ and can coast along. But he will never let you do that. He’s taught me so much. I wouldn’t be playing in the Premier League now if it wasn’t for him. 

Bamford’s background is different to your typical footballer’s. He was privately educated in Nottingham, sat his GCSEs and A-Levels a year early, got to grade seven on the violin and had an unconditional scholarship offer from Harvard University.

But he turned that down to pursue professional football. Bamford signed for Chelsea from Nottingham Forest in 2012 for £1.5million but never made a first-team appearance in five years there. 

The striker was a promising young talent at Chelsea but never made the grade in west London

The striker was a promising young talent at Chelsea but never made the grade in west London

Instead he was sent out on loan six times — to MK Dons, Derby, Middlesbrough, Crystal Palace, Norwich and finally Burnley in 2016.

He found certain managers had a pre-conceived idea of him, as if he had been brought up with a silver spoon in his mouth and would not work hard.

REDKNAPP: You’re clearly a nice, well-educated boy, but you found that was held against you?

BAMFORD: One hundred per cent. Weirdly enough, it’s the foreign managers who I get on best with. Either they don’t know or it doesn’t even cross their minds to think my background matters. They don’t care. 

Bamford feels the fact he was privately educated was held against him earlier in his career

Bamford feels the fact he was privately educated was held against him earlier in his career

Certain managers dismissed me straight away because they think about my background. The way I look at it is no footballer can become a footballer if he hasn’t worked hard. 

But the fact someone thinks I’m entitled, that would annoy me. Now I take it with a pinch of salt.

REDKNAPP: You were one of the loanees on the Chelsea carousel. If you could go back, would you still sign for them? Or would you stay at Forest and fight for a spot?

BAMFORD: I have thought about this. At Forest, Steve Cotterill was manager, and we had eight first-team strikers. He was getting me in the office, every day: ‘Are you going to sign a new contract?’ 

All I wanted was a pathway into the first team. He kept promising: ‘You will. We’re trying to sell them (the other strikers).’

Eventually he told me they were going to send me on loan to Mansfield. I thought: ‘OK, that’s not bad, I can go get some experience.’ 

But then Chelsea came in. Say I dropped down to Mansfield and didn’t do well, then you’re in a pickle because you get told: ‘If you can’t do it at Mansfield, how can you do it at Forest?’ 

He had to compete with Diego Costa (second left) and Falcao (second right) at Chelsea

He had to compete with Diego Costa (second left) and Falcao (second right) at Chelsea

But Chelsea were at the top and it’s a lot easier to come down. So I feel I made the right decision. I wouldn’t change it.

REDKNAPP: I know you met with Jose Mourinho in 2014 to discuss being Chelsea’s third-choice striker. But then Diego Costa arrived, Didier Drogba returned, Radamel Falcao was brought in the following summer and you kept getting sent out on loan. Was there a time when you decided enough was enough and you had to go be a club’s No 9 proper?

BAMFORD: Burnley. After that experience, I thought: ‘I want to go somewhere permanent.’ I don’t want to move out of a flat every six months. I wanted to be settled.

I wanted to have a proper bite at it. So I chose Middlesbrough, where I’d been on loan before.

Bamford left Chelsea permanently for Middlesbrough  in 2017, a year before joining Leeds

Bamford left Chelsea permanently for Middlesbrough  in 2017, a year before joining Leeds

It didn’t work out straight away — we were in a relegation fight in the Premier League — but it helped. Going back to Middlesbrough was what allowed me to eventually come to Leeds because I was playing regularly, showing what I could do.

REDKNAPP: Now you’re 27, leading the line for Leeds and scoring. You even made the most of a rare Virgil van Dijk mistake at Anfield! What went through your mind when you got that goal?

BAMFORD: Relief! I’d been one-on-one before that and should have scored.

REDKNAPP: Did scoring that make you feel like you belong at this level?

The 27-year-old capatilised on a Virgil van Dijk mistake to score at Anfield earlier this season

The 27-year-old capatilised on a Virgil van Dijk mistake to score at Anfield earlier this season

BAMFORD: Confidence for strikers is massive. When you’re not scoring, you’re dropping short, trying to get touches of the ball. But once you start scoring, you find yourself in the right positions without thinking about it. 

I wouldn’t say I’m a typical No 9. If I’m having a good game in Marcelo’s eyes, then I’ve linked well, I’m running behind constantly, ideally I’ve scored but I’ve done everything for the team.

I remember at the start of last season I was walking through town. Some fans came up to me and were saying: ‘You don’t understand how much it will mean to this city if you can get us promoted.’ That’s true. That probably won’t sink in until I’m long retired. 

A loud night at Elland Road, you cannot hear the person 10 yards away from you. It’s such a shame fans cannot come in. 

Such is Bamford’s personable manner, it is difficult to picture him being a master of the dark arts on the pitch — though Diego Costa is a striker he admires greatly. 

Another centre-forward the 27-year-old has spent time studying is Edinson Cavani, now of Manchester United, and Robin van Persie. ‘His movement was exceptional,’ he says of the former Arsenal and United striker.

Former Arsenal and Man United star Robin van Persie (above) is a player Bamford admires

Former Arsenal and Man United star Robin van Persie (above) is a player Bamford admires

Bamford’s contract lasts until 2022 but an extension is bound to follow. The 6ft 3in forward has scored three goals in four games this season and, clearly, Bielsa is a fan. 

Away from football, Bamford is part of a gaming platform called Bast, where fans can pay to play celebrities at a game of their choice online. 

Whatever they pay — usually between £25 and £100 — he is matching and donating the proceeds to Leeds United Foundation.

BAMFORD: I was like: ‘I can’t imagine anyone wanting to pay to play me!’ But I spoke to Leeds and said whatever money is made, I’ll give to charity and match it. It’s a way of giving back — and because I like playing the PlayStation, it makes it beneficial!

Leeds star is part of a gaming platform called Bast which is a fundraiser for club's foundation

Leeds star is part of a gaming platform called Bast which is a fundraiser for club’s foundation

REDKNAPP: My kids have gone mad for FIFA 21 — we’ll have to set up a game. I also heard a rumour that your dream job, once you finish playing football, would be to do work as a pundit. Are you trying to take my job?

BAMFORD: Tell you what, get me on A League Of Their Own and your job’s safe.

REDKNAPP: Done! You’re coming on! That’s a deal. There’s no backing out of this now. But before kicking off your TV career, what can Leeds do this season? Is Europe a legitimate aim?

BAMFORD: Every team that come up says: ‘First things first, let’s stay in this league.’ But with us, we go into every game to win. 

It doesn’t matter if it’s against Liverpool or Manchester City. We’ve started well and with that approach, we’re more likely to win games than we are to lose. 

Bamford says Leeds will stick to their style of play - even against the Premier League big boys

Bamford says Leeds will stick to their style of play – even against the Premier League big boys

I don’t know how well we’ll do, but there are no limits to how well we can do.

REDKNAPP: And if you keep scoring, is part of you thinking about England and Euro 2020?

BAMFORD: I didn’t actually think about it until the squads started getting announced for this latest round of international fixtures and a couple of my mates were winding me up: 

‘You’re going to get called up here!’ I was like: ‘Come on, I’ve scored three goals and that’s it.’ 

But a few people started mentioning it and, in my head, I thought: ‘You know what? If that happens, then it’s a dream come true.’

I’ve got to push and try to compete with the others. We’ve got a very good group of English strikers so it’ll be a good competition. Let’s see if I can put my name in the frame.

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