Patrick Bamford is fluent in four languages, his father is a billionaire, his private school inspired him to play rugby and he turned down a place at Harvard to become a professional footballer. Only one is correct, but Bamford has heard them all in a career spent dispelling misconceptions easily attached to his privileged upbringing. That he never fulfills his dream of playing for England is another one the Leeds striker hopes to ban in the coming days.
A first call from England’s senior ranks has been a long time coming for Bamford, who admits having endured many sleepless nights ahead of Gareth Southgate’s squad announcements last season. Many disappointing mornings followed for the 27-year-old, who had seen a slew of former Under-21 teammates take international honors and his fine form for Marcelo Bielsa’s side go unrewarded. The World Cup qualifiers against Hungary, Andorra and Poland, the first in Budapest, provide the opportunity Bamford has dreamed of since childhood. England also offer a wider platform for the well-spoken and well-educated striker to deal with the false impressions surrounding him.
He speaks four languages. “No, I don’t,” he laughs. “People have invented a lot of things. I can speak French and understand it. I somehow understand spanish but can’t speak it.
Your fee-paying school, Nottingham High School, has discouraged a career in football. “The school I attended was great and helped me more than a lot of people think,” he replies. “When I was in Forest, they set a schedule so that I didn’t miss too much school and my A levels, but that I could still train and play in Forest. I stopped playing rugby when I was 15 which was probably a good thing as everyone started to get bigger and stronger.
Fair enough. But Bielsa thought your father was a billionaire and you turned down a place at Harvard? “Bielsa didn’t think so, but one of the Leeds coaches who is no longer there did,” Bamford said. “I don’t remember the exact words he used, but when we were promoted he said he was proud of how hard I worked considering my dad was a billionaire. I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ He believed, like many people, that my dad had something to do with JCB – which is a myth. This is the one cleared up.
“As for Harvard, when I was in school, all my classmates did their Ucas applications and that was before I signed up pro. I wasn’t sure if I had 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 pulled out all the stops. The school helped with that. The first response was from the University of Connecticut, then others followed. This is how Harvard came up with their offer. But football has always been my first love. It seems strange to say that I turned down Harvard, but I was never really interested.
Bamford did not just reject prestigious American universities to achieve his ambitions on the football field. He also turned down an international career with the Republic of Ireland to protect his hopes of representing England, and for the most altruistic reasons.
The forward, who made an appearance for the Republic Under-18s after qualifying under grandparent rule, explains: “During my first season at Leeds, Mick McCarthy made contact. I had a knee injury so I was more focused on my fitness and being able to play the rest of the season for Leeds. But also, I felt that because my heart was committed to playing for England, and I had always dreamed of it, it would be wrong to play for Ireland then and play international football just because they had asked me. If I had done that I might have kept someone out of this team whose dream was to play for Ireland. I didn’t think it would be fair. I had to stay true to myself, work hard and try to achieve my dreams.
“There were times when I thought ‘maybe that won’t happen’ for a split second, but then I would put my head back on track and push towards her. I always said I did. would never give up, even if I ended up being called back at 36! For me that would be a triumph, so it was just a matter of continuing until the day I had to hang up my boots. And if I did, I did, and if I didn’t, I knew I had done my best.
Perseverance, not privilege, could be about to pay off for England’s latest recruit.