Patrick Bamford has never shied away from the fact that he comes from a privileged background. He has rarely been able to, in fact, as it makes for good articles.
Bamford is far from the first posh footballer, though. He is not the only one currently playing in the Premier League. The acceleration of English football’s growth from working class roots over the past 30 years means that many of today’s players are drawn from more comfortable backgrounds than their forebears.
Still, the only new addition to Gareth Southgate’s first England squad since Euro 2020 is the country’s most recognisably posh player and definitely the only one with a parody Twitter account that describes him as “an officer, a gentleman and a footballer for Leeds United”.
And in football, once you’ve earned such a reputation, it can be difficult to shake, even among those you work with.
Not long after Leeds finally secured promotion and a return to the top flight of English football, one coach on Marcelo Bielsa’s staff told Bamford that he was surprised how diligent and hard-working he had been that season, given that his dad is a billionaire. The only thing is, Bamford’s dad isn’t a billionaire.
“I can’t remember the words he used, but he said he was proud of how I’d worked considering my dad was who he was. I was like: ‘What you on about?’” he recalls. The coach in question apparently thought Bamford was related to the family behind JCB, founded by Joseph Cyril Bamford. “That’s a myth.” His real dad, Russell, is an architect.
You may have heard the one about him being offered a place to study at Harvard. That one, it turns out, is true. While in the youth system at Nottingham Forest and studying at the fee-paying Nottingham High School, he and his friends started applying for university courses.
“I wasn’t sure or not if I was going to get a pro contract, so I had to go through the process as well,” he says.
“I didn't want to go to university in England and thought that, if I was going to go to uni, I’d do a football scholarship over in America. My dad put feelers out and the school helped me with that. I think the first one was the University of Connecticut or something like that, they got in touch.
“Once one had got in touch a few others heard about it and that’s how Harvard came about. The offer was there but football was always my first love if you like. It sounds weird to say I turned it down but I was never really interested.”
To become a professional footballer was always his one ambition, with playing for England a close second. And while his upbringing offered him advantages some of his new international teammates did not have, it has counted for little since establishing himself in the game.
Bamford has arrived at his first England camp on the week of his 28th birthday, not as a promising young upstart but in his prime, and after a nomadic career that included six separate loan spells before settling down under Bielsa at Leeds.
And for someone who has supposedly had things all his own way, he has refused to take the easy route. Bamford qualifies for the Republic of Ireland through one of his grandparents and had the chance to switch allegiances three years ago. Mick McCarthy, then Ireland’s manager, even declared that Bamford would be pulling on a green jersey sooner or later.
For Bamford, though, that would not have been right. He did not wish to take that spot away from an Irish player who had grown up dreaming of playing for Ireland, just as he had grown up dreaming of representing England.
“I didn't think that would be fair so I had to stay true to myself really and what I wanted to achieve and work hard until it hopefully happened,” he says.
“I always believed that I would get to the England stage. It wasn't so much being selfless and not standing in someone's way, it was also believing that I would get to this level at some point.
“There were times when I thought maybe it wouldn't happen but obviously I had to get my head back on track and push towards it. I always said never give up.
“Even if I end up getting called up when I'm 36 or the latter stages of my career, for me that would be a triumph. So it was just about keeping going until the day I hang my boots up. And if I do it I do it, if not I know I’ve tried my best.”
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