If the current Leeds United’s Number 9, Patrick Bamford had the looks and charisma of Brad Pitt, together with the magic and mastery of Messi and a sleeve on one arm depicting St George defeating a dragon and the other arm saying “I heart my mum”, he would STILL be facing mass chastisement by a certain element of Leeds United fans.
And it’s not just Patrick either. I’ll take the time, Pop Pickers, to give you a countdown of a few names who make up our last top ten lambasted Number 9s of the decade;
Pierre Michel Lasogga – hero to zero in one game (Millwall) as he ran and scored and ran and scored… but ran out to tired legs before the 90 minutes was up. Chris Wood – couldn’t hit a barn door allegedly but still did 30 goals in his last season with us. Matt Smith – still a “Leeds and you know you are” favourite – pity then so few sang his name when he was with us though and most told him he wasn’t fit to wear the shirt. Brazilian hopeful Adryan- whose playing career didn’t even last as long legendary Roque Jnr. Then, the famous Warnock’s Warchest Quartet of Dexter Blackstock, Connor Wickham, Jerome Thomas, Steve Morison, and…….. Billy Painter, of course. That’s a list and a half to forget, isn’t it?
In fact, it’s really only Jer – maine (remember the date) Beckford who is our last memorable Number 9 of the first decade of the 21st century. Even then, and this is controversial and I know it, even then, poor Beckford used to get a right slating from most, if not all, four stands for being a temperamental, lazy git who couldn’t jump to win a ball and then wouldn’t hit a ball unless it was passed straight to his feet. Jer – maine is now selling his wares as a dapper football pundit and holds the title of full on Leeds legend.
But, he did put the ball in the Man U net …… but then so did David Wetherall…
So, what is it about that Number 9 shirt?
500 mile walk David Healy aside and Brett Ormerod (!) , we did have a reasonable run of favourites in that shirt for a while. The Duke, Jimmy Floyd Piggybank, Ian Rush (??), Yeboah, Deano and my personal favourite, Chappie. They all got the plaudits and accolades they deserved, and remain in a happy place in most fans’ minds. I am sorry to say, it has been a uphill slog for the last lot to try win any praise of late.
Is it because the bar was set so high because of these illustrious legends? Are the Golden Age goal scoring elite boots of Lorimer, Clarke, Gray, Terry Connor and Tony Currie too big to fill?
Given that the median age of the Leeds United fan, certainly in the Cheese wedge and the South Stand is lower than that of the average stalwart in the Revie Stand (and definitely the Captains Corner), it cannot be down to the fact that Bamford and Wood are being harkened to those players of yesteryear. Seeing as most of these younger ones weren’t around when Chappie was at his poaching best, surely none of them can even think about using them as a comparison.
No, I can only conclude the level of criticism aimed at our Number 9 players over the last decade or so is a symptom of far too much expectation of instant glory.
Don’t get me wrong, Chapman used to get a ton of abuse for being a donkey. To be fair, Chappie was far from our most elegant player. What with his gangly legs (similar to a baby goat at times), occasional lack of depth perception and his inability to know where and what his arms and legs were doing at the same time, he would never have made a ballerina. But Chapman knew where the net was and he managed to get the ball in the back of the it by hook or by crook. Or rather by managing to hit the ball with his head, shoulder, knee, foot, eyes closed or eyes open … as long as it went in, I wasn’t bothered how it got in. It got us promoted as Champions!
When Patrick Bamford ended his goal drought at that Blackburn game, he ran to the crowd and gestured to the baying hounds. The fact that he felt he had to do that was bad enough. I felt terrible for him but the naysayers in the crowd deserved that. I preferred the Mark Aizlewood salute myself, but given how upset people are getting nowadays with everything, it probably wouldn’t have been a good idea. Bizarre how in the old days things were so censored, some of the old films that were in the 70s and were given an X certificate are now on TCM without a care in the world. But nowadays even though music videos and songs are streamed with really explicit content (lyrics and violent scenes) etc. people get offended by the odd F word so easily? Go figure that one out then.
I digress, back to Patrick. They are still going on at him, even now. Especially now. When he came on at West Brom his impact was immediate and although the Football League have now taken two goals off him, the one at West Brom and the other one at Luton, he is still up there as our top goal scorer. His work rate during the game is immense. The barren spell he had in front of goal bears no reflection on what he has been doing for the team when he hasn’t scored. Yes, he needs a more consistent service to score. I really wish Kiko would actually hoof the ball up to him when he is actually on the pitch, instead of waiting til Bamford gets subbed before he starts giving the long balls to someone who doesn’t stick a chance in the air. But, Bielsa rates him and that is enough for me. I couldn’t care less about the 25,000+ other football managers at Elland Road.
Maybe I’m being a little too harsh to our current fan base. I remember when Viduka came to us. It took quite a few games for him to find his goal scoring boots too. There was always that element who cursed him when he missed an open net and condemned him for not being able to get more than an inch off the ground for a cross. I suppose it has always been the same for our fickle fans. It perhaps seems worse now with the onset of the social media age, where in August everyone suddenly becomes the greatest football manager and tactician since Cruyff, and don’t we know about it!
The game has changed in the last 20-30 years. The old fashioned Number 9 out and out striker has long departed. The days of the Di Stefano and Cruyff, and in the more recent times, the Shearers and the Fowlers of this world don’t really exist any more. In a way, probably Ronaldo (the fat one rather than the cheating one) was the last of the proper Number 9s to grace the field. Players don’t seem to be bothered with their numbers anymore either. Whether that is just a reflection of the times, as in the demise of the standard 4-4-2 as opposed to the vanity of players wanting to put their own stamp (for however long they stay depending on money!) on the team, I’m not sure about.
The game has definitely changed, all you hear about now is the “high press” and “clever game management” aka cheating. The ball is “rounder” and designed to fly through the air quicker. The players are fitter yet less hardy and tend to fall over at the slightest touch. The pitches (apart from in Scotland and in Histon) tend to be grass as opposed to mud baths. The 4-4-2 traditionalists amongst us are now in the minority and the infamous Mike Bassett Christmas Tree is now actually taken seriously! Even though the changes are massive, the crowd’s expectation for a player to play as a Number 9 hasn’t really lessened at all. In fact, it has become more vociferous if anything. Not content with the fact that goals are coming from all over the pitch, you still hear the phrase “we need a proper striker up front”. Last season this phrase was followed by “like Vydra or Rhodes” – er hmmm. However, we should have learnt by our mistakes last season. We shouldn’t be putting all our eggs in one basket, in case we get injuries like last season, we should be happy that Harrison, Dallas and even Ayling etc. are getting on the scoresheet.
Patrick Bamford WILL score more goals and I hope he gets his 30 goals this season, because he deserves to. Just give the lad a chance and pipe down you miserable lot.
photo courtesy of pinterest, and yes, that is Brad Pitt not Patrick!