Patrick Bamford is fluent in four languages, his dad is a billionaire, his private school pushed him to play rugby and he rejected a place at Harvard to become a professional footballer instead. Only one is correct, yet Bamford has heard them all in a career spent dispelling the misconceptions easily attached to his privileged upbringing. That he would never fulfil his dream of playing for England is another the Leeds striker hopes to banish in the coming days.
A first call-up to the senior England ranks has been a long time coming for Bamford, who admits he endured many sleepless nights before Gareth Southgate’s squad announcements last season. Many disappointing mornings followed for the 27-year-old, who had seen a host of former teammates from the Under-21s graduate to full international honours and his fine form for Marcelo Bielsa’s team go unrewarded. The World Cup qualifiers against Hungary, Andorra and Poland, the first in Budapest on Thursday, provide the opportunity Bamford has craved since childhood. England also provides a wider platform for the well-spoken, well-educated forward to address the false impressions that surround him.
He speaks four languages. “No I don’t,” he says with a laugh. “People have invented a lot of things. I can speak French and understand it. I kind of understand Spanish but can’t speak it.”
Your fee-paying school, Nottingham High School, discouraged a career in football. “The school I went to was brilliant and helped me more than a lot of people realise,” he replies. “When I was at Forest they sorted out a timetable so I wouldn’t miss too much school and my A-levels, but would still be able to train and play at Forest. I stopped playing rugby at 15, which was probably a good thing as everyone started getting bigger and stronger.”
Fair enough. But Bielsa thought your dad was a billionaire and you turned down a place at Harvard? “Bielsa didn’t think it but one of the coaches at Leeds who isn’t there any more did,” Bamford says. “I can’t remember the exact words he used but when we got promoted he said he was proud of how hard I worked considering my dad was a billionaire. I was like: ‘What are you on about?’ He believed, like a lot of people, that my dad was something to do with JCB – which is a myth. That’s that one cleared up.
I had to stay true to myself, work hard and try to reach my dreams
“As for Harvard, when I was at school all my mates were doing their Ucas applications and it was before I signed pro. I wasn’t sure I was going to get a pro contract, so I had to go through the process as well. But I didn’t want to go to university in England. I wanted to do a football scholarship in America so my dad put the feelers out. The school helped with that. The first reply was from the University of Connecticut and then others followed. That was how Harvard came with their offer. But football was always my first love. It sounds weird to say I turned Harvard down but I was never really interested.”
Bamford not only rejected prestigious American universities to realise his ambitions on the football pitch. He also turned down an international career with the Republic of Ireland to protect his hopes of representing England, and for the most selfless of reasons.
The forward, who made one appearance for the Republic’s Under-18s having qualified under the grandparent rule, explains: “During my first season at Leeds Mick McCarthy did get in touch. I had a knee injury so I was more focused on getting fit and making sure I could play the rest of the season for Leeds. But also, I felt because my heart had been committed to playing for England, and I had always dreamed of that, it would be wrong to then play for Ireland and play international football just because they had asked me. If I did that, I might have kept someone out of that team whose dream was to play for Ireland. I didn’t think that would be fair. I had to stay true to myself, work hard and try to reach my dreams.
“There were times I thought ‘maybe it won’t happen’ for a split-second but then I’d get my head back on track and push towards it. I always said I’d never give up, even if I ended up getting called up when I was 36! For me that would be a triumph, so it was just a case of keep going until the day I have to hang my boots up. And if I did it, I did it, and if I didn’t I knew that I’d tried my best.”
Perseverance, not privilege, may be about to pay off for England’s latest recruit.