Leeds United man allowed to fly under the radar thanks to £45m solution to historic problem

MAIN MEN - Patrick Bamford has become one of Leeds United's options for the number 9 role when at times he was the only option who could make attacking systems work. Georginio Rutter is holding down the role currently, with Joel Piroe tucked in behind him at 10. Pic: Getty
MAIN MEN - Patrick Bamford has become one of Leeds United's options for the number 9 role when at times he was the only option who could make attacking systems work. Georginio Rutter is holding down the role currently, with Joel Piroe tucked in behind him at 10. Pic: Getty

The German's stone-dead trapping of a high ball received an Elland Road ovation and unsurprisingly went viral over the weekend. He was asked about it following the game and joked that if his players had his quality on the ball everything would be a lot easier.

By the time the pre-Southampton press conference rolled around five days later that moment wasn't particularly on the radar of the quartet of journalists who gathered at Thorp Arch to speak to Farke. Had the national newspapers sent someone along then it might well have been brought up again, being the kind of light hearted topic that can elicit some nice colour to go alongside the more mechanical updates of team news, injuries and the upcoming match.

But Farke's 'match day minus two' press conferences are not drawing the nationals to Wetherby right now. That's perhaps as good a measure as any of how calm and sensible life is at Leeds United. Where there's drama there will be scribes, in number. Last season the area of Thorp Arch that couples as a team meeting room and a media suite was most full around the time of managerial changes but even in the most settled moments of an unsettling campaign, the local media pack was supplemented by at least a couple of writers or broadcasters from national outlets.

As with any Premier League club the international broadcast requirements were an additional duty for managers and players alike, adding to the traditional necessity of a press conference. There was also, of course, a keen American interest in all things Leeds due to the presence of Jesse Marsch, Tyler Adams, Brenden Aaronson, Weston McKennie and the briefly-seen and swiftly dispatched Chris Armas. It will come as a surprise to precisely no one that the level of Stateside interest has since dwindled, considerably, as the American presence in the changing room has gradually vanished.

There may come a time this season, perhaps when the business end of the season approaches with its potential and seismic consequences, when Leeds pop back up on the radar of the nation's media or outlets across the pond, but right now the Whites are coasting along largely undetected - or as much as a club of this size and stature can - because everything is largely fine. Clean sheets, wins, no drama. It's not like Leeds, but no news is generally good news in football.

And into the heady mix of goals, victories and what Farke calls 'impressive' performances, steps a man who spent the longest time as the biggest dot on the radar when it came to centre forwards at Elland Road.

Patrick Bamford, for what felt like an eternity, was not only the main man up front for Leeds but all-too-often the only man in the conversation. Rodrigo sparked to life last season to score the most goals before an ankle injury derailed him and left him incapable of playing 90 minutes up top until the final two games. Even though Georginio Rutter came along as a £35m January signing, the Frenchman played significantly fewer minutes than the number 9 who was already in situ. Rutter was, according to Sam Allardyce, one for the 2023/24 season.

And yet as Bamford finally re-enters Farke's selection process ahead of a trip to Southampton, the roles have been reversed and the landscape has changed dramatically.

What Leeds needed to do in the summer was add another serious goalscoring option to their ranks so that Bamford was not so heavily relied upon, particularly in light of the fitness issues that plagued him for the past two seasons. They only went and did it, too, bringing in a proven Championship marksman in Joel Piroe. Four goals in his last five games, playing as a number 10 behind Rutter, have already cemented the Dutchman as the main man as far as hitting the net is concerned, while his strike partner is holding the ball up and using it admirably to link attacks. In essence, two men are doing what was once asked of one. What’s more, where Leeds systems would once falter without Bamford as a focal point, Farke’s Leeds are working just fine with others in place.

The manager, though, believes the once-capped England striker has something that is of worth to bring to an attack that has already begun to click in his absence.

"First of all we are not just here to help Patrick, it's more like the other way around, Patrick is here to help us," said the German.

"Patrick is a quality player, he's experienced and it's always a good feeling as a player when you head into games and you look left and see Bamford next to you. He didn't win the cap for England in the lottery, he's a quality player. Hot got this club promoted and then he's had a difficult spell due to injuries.

"I was pretty impressed with him in pre-season, scored goals, he was sharp in his movement and sadly this injury happened. We are right now all happy he is back in team training."

What Leeds will get, if Bamford comes into the game on Saturday to play any minutes at all, is not the best version of the 30-year-old. That will take time to re-emerge. He's a very good option for Farke, though, another very good option, a luxury even for a second tier side given what he did last time round in the Championship.

"He will need a while to be back to his best but he has quality to score, to link the play and a top class team-mate," said Farke.

"It's good to have him back and he will be absolutely beneficial to us as a group. He will play an important part. He's confident and experienced enough, he doesn't need our help. He's a proven goalscorer on this level, especially on this level. We're happy to have him."

Farke added that the forward is 'highly motivated to be involved' and in a good mood. He rejoins a team in a good place, too. The presence and form of Rutter, Piroe and a collection of wingers who are divvying up the end product between them will allow Bamford to ease himself back into action. There need be no over-reliance or over-usage. Come on in, Bamford, the expectation is shared, the pressure - at least the external stuff - is off and the water is warm.