This interview first appeared in the Crystal Palace v Manchester City matchday programme – 12th September 2015.
“There are always things I need to learn”
These are strong words from someone who once rejected the chance to attend Harvard University as a youngster, but the multi-talented Patrick Bamford is happy to accept that he has a lot to master in the school of hard knocks that is the Premier League. Given his track record, he looks destined to make the grade when his opportunity in SE25 arises.
He can play four instruments, speak three languages, could have played a number of sports at a high level, took his GCSEs early and once turned down the chance to attend American Ivy League college Harvard University. Is there anything Patrick Bamford can’t do?
“I’m learning golf at the moment so I’m trying to get better at that, and I’m also useless at pool, snooker and darts so bar sports I guess!” the on-loan striker humbly chuckles.
Having excelled at so many varied pursuits it’s unsurprising that the 22-year-old hasn’t been spending too much time chalking his cue or at the oche, but you get the sense that if he did fancy adding those skills to his bulky portfolio of talents then he could.
It’s that impressive drive and work ethic that means despite a lack of playing time at Palace so far since his summer arrival, Bamford is sure to make his mark sooner rather than later. He maturely shows an acceptance that he’ll have to bide his time for now with the Eagles flying high in the table.
“It’s been a slow start for me in regards to playing but I’m integrating into the squad and getting used to everything,” he admitted. “I think from here on in I’ll be pushing for a place in the team. I’ve had chats with the manager and he’s reiterated the same kind of thing that he’s said before I joined. I knew I’d have to be patient but when I get my chance it’s up to me.
“There are always things I need to learn, I need to teach myself to be more physical to help myself cope against Premier League players as everyone here is an experienced player in this division so I need to catch up with them.
“I did enjoy my Premier League debut though [against Arsenal last month]. It was good to get it out the way more than anything. When you’re a striker and you don’t score goals it niggles at you and it would have been the same if I didn’t play as I was just waiting for that first appearance, but when it came along it was a proud moment for me.
“When I came on I got a rush of adrenalin and as a substitute you don’t really get a chance to catch your breath, so with it being my first game it was a bit of a whirlwind.”
That was exactly how the majority of the Palace fans crammed into the Shed End at Stamford Bridge were feeling a fortnight ago when Alan Pardew’s men pulled off a marvellous victory against Chelsea. Due to the terms of his loan agreement, Bamford was unable to participate in the fixture but reveals where his colours truly lay that day.
He said: “It was strange to be honest, obviously being at Palace I wanted them to win but if Chelsea had won and deserved to win I couldn’t have really complained, but on the day Palace were the much better team and deserved to win thoroughly. I was sat in the Chelsea end but I was jumping up and down when Palace scored, even though I was trying to be subtle!”
Bamford is an eloquent speaker and you could sense his avoidance of using the word ‘we’ when referring to either his current or his parent club. It’s something he has had to get used to since making the bold move to swap life as an up and coming youngster at Nottingham Forest to mixing it with Chelsea’s world class superstars aged just 19.
‘We’ could have previously referred to MK Dons, Derby County or Middlesbrough where he has spent the majority of his time since making the move to the bright lights of London, but once he heard about the Blues’ interest he packed his bags after just two first-team outings for Forest.
“It was a hard one as I’d been at the club since I was eight, and I’d never left home and I was moving all the way down to London,” Bamford states. “The thing is when Chelsea come calling you can’t turn it down, no matter where you’re at so I had to go.
“It has been what I expected. Unless I wanted to give up the dream of playing for Chelsea then I knew I’d have to be brave and stick it out on loan elsewhere, so it was one of those things where I’ve thought about it and accepted it. I’ve been moving around all over the place for the past few years but I’m finally settled now; I’ve got a place in Fulham – somewhere I can call home.”
That homecoming occurred after Bamford played a staring role in helping Middlesbrough to the brink of promotion last season, hitting 17 goals in 38 Championship games to be named the division’s Player of the Year and finally stamp his mark on the footballing landscape. However his breakout year would end in heartbreak after he suffered the pain of losing the play-off final to Norwich City at Wembley.
Initially reluctant to move to Teeside, Bamford admits that he is better for his experiences at Boro and draws a parallel with his current predicament at Palace, saying: “When the move was first proposed to me I didn’t actually want to go up north and go to Middlesbrough.
“I was thinking that it was too far from home but when I got there I loved it, it was my favourite loan until now, mainly because I’d been there a whole season so I had time to settle, make good friends and get to know the area.
“I actually had a slow start there, a bit similar to here where I was named on the bench and came on a few times and then didn’t play and came on a bit more. Then when I finally got my chance to start a run of games I did well and from there I pushed on.
“I learnt a lot last season so it should help me going into this one. Those kind of struggles give you experience and now I know how to deal with it. You see some young players whose heads drop straight away but I’ve found that I don’t have to deal with that now.”
Once again, Bamford displays the determination and level-headedness that has got him to where he is in life. He’s a footballer who is unafraid to break the mould and dispel the stereotypes often unfairly attached to his colleagues.
The story about him turning down one of the most prestigious education institutions in the world has been subject to Chinese whispers over the years, so he is happy to straighten things out once and for all.
“Before you sign a pro contract you can do a scholarship towards the end of your first year of A-Levels. Because I’d taken them a year early, everyone else was doing UCAS applications but I didn’t really want to go to university with them as I wanted to be a footballer.
“However if I did go then I wanted to do it in America with a football scholarship so I could still play and have a good education programme with it. My dad was speaking to numerous American universities and Harvard was one who was keen.
“It never got to the stage where I had to properly pursue it, so it was good to have but I was more interested in football. Fortunately I didn’t need it but it’s one of those things where if you get offered to go there it’s a massive thing.”
Undertaking a daily routine of getting up at six in the morning to get the bus to school before returning home at 11 at night after various training sessions, it’s incredible that Bamford was able to develop his skills as a musician and linguist at the same time as his studies.
Being one of Britain’s more well-rounded footballers has made him stand out from the crowd a little since his talents have come to life, but he’s not too fussed about people’s perceptions, adding: “Everyone makes a big deal out of it but I don’t really think about it. For me it’s been normal with the way I’ve grown up and the friends I had in school but for some people it’s not.
“When I was a kid I was good at all sorts of sports, I played tennis and at the age of 11 I had to choose between that and football then I played rugby at school too. I did German and French at school at GCSE and took French through to A-Level.
I can still understand quite a bit of German and I can speak enough to get by. French I’m alright at and I have spoken to Pape [Souare] in it a few times, so it’s useful to have.
“I like music; it’s a good thing to relax with. I started with the violin which was a strange instrument to begin with but I did that to grade seven [out of a possible eight] but I haven’t played that for two or three years. I can play the piano a little bit and I’m OK at that, and I did the saxophone for a while but I sacked that off eventually!
“The last two years I’ve been teaching myself the guitar. At the moment I use YouTube to learn but I will get an instructor this year now I’m back down in London who will come round and teach me. But there’s no chance I’ll perform for the boys!”