Patrick Bamford’s move to Middlesbrough could revive career
The 23-year-old has left Stamford Bridge and now could have a role to play for Ireland
Patrick Bamford has returned to Middlesbrough on a permanent deal from Chelsea after an unsuccessful stint at Stamford Bridge.
Middlesbrough have given former Republic of Ireland underage international Patrick Bamford the opportunity to kick-start his club career and, perhaps, revive his international ambitions after agreeing a deal with Chelsea for the 23-year-old striker, who has signed a four-and-a-half year deal.
Bamford moved to Stamford Bridge five years ago from Nottingham Forest and initially looked to be progressing towards a top level career thanks to a series of successful loan spells but he has not scored a competitive goal in almost two years during which he has had less impressive stints at Crystal Palace, Norwich and, most recently, Burnley.
Middlesbrough’s enduring belief in his potential is reflected, however, in the €5.75 million initial fee they have agree to pay for him and the similar amount in potential add-ons that Chelsea would receive in the event that he can rediscover the sort of form he showed when he spent the 2014/15 season at the club.
Then, a run of 17 goals in 39 league games earned him the title of Championship Player of the Year (Dele Alli won the young player award) and fuelled huge expectations.
By that stage, the Grantham-born player had already accepted a number of call-ups from England and he went on to represent the country of his birth at under-18, 19 and 21 levels although, having never featured in a competitive game for Ireland, he remains free to declare again, a possibility that Noel King never entirely ruled out while the player qualified to play for his under-21 team.
First, of course, he has to rediscover the sort of form he showed while on loan to Derby, MK Dons and then Middlesbrough. He was a regular scorer at all three and might argue that he never quite got the run of games he required to properly find his feet in the season and a half since, with two of his three loan spells cut short due, it seems, to his own growing frustration.
Middlesbrough certainly looks like the ideal opportunity to start again. He will be fondly remembered by the fans at a club that tried to keep him when his loan period was up and Aitor Karanka’s side has struggled in front of goal so far this season.
Alvaro Negredo is currently the club’s top scorer with five of the 17 Premier League goals they have scored scored. That is the smallest number managed by any top flight side while the team’s defence has been one of the tightest, having conceded fewer than any side outside of the top six and a couple of teams (Liverpool and Manchester City) actually in it.
Whether he could hope to play himself into contention for a senior England call-up remains to be seen but catching the eye of Martin O’Neill would certainly seem achievable if he can nail down a first-team place. The Ireland manager has made no secret of his desire to recruit a natural goalscorer in the wake of Robbie Keane’s retirement from international football.
Scott Hogan is his current target but the 24-year-old has been in no hurry to volunteer his services, even before he became distracted by the prospect of a move from Brentford to West Ham, something that is apparently being held up at present by a dispute over the level of potential add-ons with the Premier League outfit prepared to pay up to €3.5 million on top of the agreed €10.35 million fee but his current club wanting twice that amount.
For Chelsea, meanwhile, the Bamford fee would appear to represent a good piece of business with the club making a significant profit on the €1.7 million it paid for a player who failed to make even one competitive first team appearance.
The striker becomes the latest in a long line of professionals whose Chelsea careers amounted to time in the academy followed a succession of loans to lesser clubs with many more graduates of the club’s youth development system, like Ryan Bertrand, Josh McEachran and Scott Sinclair, obliged to move on despite having initially made a breakthrough.
Those and many more have, however, gone on to successfully establish themselves elsewhere.
Bamford, meanwhile, would not be the first player to change his international allegiance from Ireland to England then back again should he eventually decide to do so with former Arsenal striker Rhys Murphy, now at Forest Green Rovers, having initially played for the Irish under-15s before accepting a call-up to the under-21s from Noel King after several seasons in the England set up.
More recently Jack Grealish and Michael Keane have been the most high profile players to abandon the Irish cause with the Aston Villa midfielder having generated a fair bit of antipathy from Irish fans after opting for England in September 2015.
His career has not progressed at anything like the same rate since then, although he is still only 21. Keane, meanwhile, has continued to improve and, after a successful stint in the England under-21s, he is now a well regarded regular in the Premier League with Burnley and seen by many as having the potential to break into the senior international side at some stage.