Every season, up to thirty Chelsea youngsters go on the loan trail, looking for first team experience, carrying with them the feint hope that one day Chelsea and Jose Mourinho will deem them good enough for the first team.
As ever, some loan moves are more successful than others. Some of Chelsea’s best young prospects have gone to clubs and failed to enhance their reputation. Chalobah had one to forget last season at Forest, which was repeated at Burnley this year. John Swift barely got a kick of the ball at Rotherham. Tomas Kalas didn’t manage a single appearance in the Bundesliga with FC Koln.
There are a number of variables behind a good loan spell – the style of football a team play, fitness levels, competition for places, the manager and of course the player themselves. This makes for some perfectly valid excuses when loan moves don’t quite go to plan. But one player who never seems to need an excuse or have a bad loan spell is Patrick Bamford.
He isn’t quite the elusive ‘Made in Chelsea’ player that Mourinho so desires in the first team. Chelsea acquired him from Nottingham Forest in January 2012 for a reported £1.5 Million, aware of his incredible goal scoring record at youth level, which included nine goals in two games in the FA Youth Cup. He went straight into the U21 side at Chelsea and spent 12 months at that level. His goalscoring record remained strong, but many other aspects of his play looked promising, particularly his build up play and technical ability around the box.
Since then, he’s had four hugely successful loan moves at three different clubs:
MK Dons (Jan 2013-Jan 2014): P41 G21
Derby County (Jan 2014-May 2014): P23 G8
Middlesbrough (Aug 2014-Current): P26 G11
For the most part he’s played as a striker, but his time at Derby was predominantly spent out on the wing, where he has occasionally played for Middlesbrough. His loan moves show a visible sign of progress, both in goalscoring and performance levels. His work rate wasn’t immune to criticism from Derby County supporters last year, which Bamford has gone some way to rectifying. His all-action performance in Middlesbrough’s win over Derby this season, where he constantly pressurized and harassed Derby’s defence and goalkeeper into mistakes, shows the development of this side of Bamford’s game in no longer than 6 months.
His success against Premier League teams must also be highlighted. He scored for MK Dons against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light, won and converted a last minute penalty for Middlesbrough at Anfield and scored a real poachers goal at the Etihad at the weekend. All the signs are pointing towards a player who can deliver at the top level when he gets the opportunity to do so.
What’s next for Patrick Bamford? His current contract expires in 2016, so it’s about the right time for Chelsea and Jose Mourinho to either start penciling Bamford into the first team plans at Stamford Bridge, or decide that it’s time to let him go on a permanent basis. In an ideal world, Middlesbrough would get promoted; Bamford would sign a new deal, before heading back to Teesside for one final season of development before getting a shot at Chelsea. He seemed receptive to this in an interview with the BBC this weekend, and it would suit all three parties.
But it doesn’t always work out that way. If Chalobah had got promoted in 12/13 and remained a constant in Watford’s team in the Premier League, he almost certainly wouldn’t have been heading back out to the Championship this window. There were murmurings in the summer that Bamford may be third choice striker this season, before the arrivals of Didier Drogba and Loic Remy postponed those hopes for another year.
Bamford’s successes in his short career so far suggests he may not actually need Chelsea to get that shot at the big time. It’s easy to envisage him experiencing a similar astronomical rise to that of Harry Kane and Saido Berahino when he finally gets the chance of regular first team football at the highest level. He has the ability, versatility and adaptability to succeed at any club.
The rewards for Chelsea being that club are obvious. He can play on either wing or upfront, and would be an excellent option from the bench, saving the club X amount of money on a more ‘proven’ forward. Whether Chelsea actually want to take this chance on a young player remains to be seen. One thing is for sure though; Bamford couldn’t be putting forward a more convincing argument at this moment in time.