The long wait for Patrick Bamford's first senior national team call up came to a merciful end last week but was met by one repeated question: Why now?
On the back of a Premier League campaign in which he outscored every English player bar the nation's captain, Bamford was left to watch the European Championship from his sofa. Yet, after two games of the new season without a goal or a win, Gareth Southgate snaps him up.
Even Bamford was left surprised. As he candidly outlined to Leeds' official YouTube channel: “It’s the first international [break] since, maybe, November/December last year where I’ve not got my hopes up and thought: ‘Maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t.’ I totally forgot about it and then on the morning of the call up obviously I was kinda surprised but delighted.”
Bamford at least ensured he went into his first England camp with a Premier League goal to his name this campaign, snatching a point against Burnley in a bruising battle on Sunday afternoon with what he aptly described as a 'typical striker's goal'.
As the game ticked into its final five minutes, Bamford finally escaped the clutches of Burnley's tactile, to say the least, centre-back duo to tap in Ben Shackleton's deflected effort from two yards, cancelling out Chris Wood's opener to earn a 1-1 draw.
That fleeting moment was one of the few Bamford could enjoy without either Ben Mee or, more often, James Tarkowski buffeting the tall but lithe forward around Turf Moor. Within the opening two minutes the tone was set. In a brazen piece of physicality Bamford himself described as 'some weird jujitsu thing', Tarkowski had slammed Leeds' number nine to the turf.
Yet, the 27-year-old swiftly dusted himself off and pickpocketed Tarkowski on the edge of Burnley's penalty area seconds later - displaying a sharp contrast to the crude assessment Sean Dyche instantly crafted during Bamford's six-month loan spell with the Clarets.
When Bamford enquired about his lack of game time while a temporary Burnley player in 2016, Dyche "started citing other reasons: 'born with a silver spoon in your mouth', 'listening to too many people influencing you outside of football'," the new England international told the Daily Mail in February. "When I asked for an example, the answer was: 'Who did you arrive with when you signed on your first day?' I said: 'My mum and dad' and he said: 'Exactly.' Then I started getting defensive. I didn’t think that was right."
Bamford certainly didn't need his parents by his side as he impressively held his own despite being perennially outnumbered. He even admitted post-match: "I quite enjoy having a little fight with them and after the game we were all fine.”
While few would contest Bamford's assessment of his own performance, his insistence that Leeds 'created a lot of chances' was a little misleading. In a bitty, brutal game the visitors dominated possession but struggled to break down Burnley's familiar banks of four, creating their best opportunities on the rare occasions the Clarets broke ranks to allow a counter attack.
Raphinha found himself on the end of one of these sporadic breaks in the first half but was caught in two minds as Bamford awaited a cut-back but the angle was on for a shot - in the end he did neither. To highlight the paltry quality of the chances Leeds were afforded, nine of their 12 shots in the match had a 6% or lower chance of finding the net, according to UnderStat.
Burnley, on the other hand, where able to stack up a healthy number of chances largely through their preferred route to goal - one that Leeds came to fear last season: set pieces.
As Marcelo Bielsa took pains to highlight post match: "For us to play well, our creative players must play well and to create danger we need our offensive players to shine. But our opponents in the case of today, they created danger without the need for their offensive players to shine."
He might not have lit up Turf Moor but Bamford still salvaged a point for winless Leeds with his first sniff of goal - instincts that make the only surprising aspect of his England call-up its lengthy delay.
Source : 90min