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With goals continuing to elude Stephen Kenny’s Republic of Ireland side, the manager and the FAI need to up their efforts to bring Leeds United striker Patrick Bamford into the fold.
Bamford’s eligibility for Ireland is no secret, with the Whites striker featuring for the nation once at under-18 level. Former boss Mick McCarthy tried to bring the 27-year-old into the fold last year but said that, ultimately, the decision would rest with the player himself, who at the time was focusing on Leeds’ promotion push.
Many questioned if Bamford would be able to make the step up to starting regularly in the Premier League, having helped Leeds win the Championship title last season. The former Chelsea academy starlet has so far answered those critics with seven goals in the first eight league games of the campaign, including a hat-trick against Aston Villa.
There seems to be little doubt that Bamford is ready to test himself at international level, after what he has done with Leeds, who are 9/1 in the mobile betting to be relegated from the Premier League this season. Now it appears Bamford is waiting to make up his mind on whether he will pledge his allegiance to Ireland or England.
Three Lions manager Gareth Southgate has already spoken about Bamford’s start to the campaign, with the national boss being seen at Elland Road this season. Competition for places is strong in the England squad, with skipper Harry Kane almost guaranteed a starting role, while the likes of Jadon Sancho, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Tammy Abraham, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford all compete for the other attacking roles.
If Bamford can continue his current form at Leeds then perhaps he has a chance of earning a call-up but the dilemma rests on where his long-term future is best suited. There is no doubt Bamford would earn regular game time with Ireland and could find himself as a key figure for Kenny’s side.
Kenny has looked to bring a new style to the Ireland squad, with the boys in green looking to play a bit more football and be slightly less direct than they have in the past. That would certainly suit Bamford, who has come on leaps and bounds since Marcelo Bielsa’s arrival at Elland Road. The forward’s ability to press and hound defenders, to link up play and of course finish, makes him an extremely attractive prospect for Ireland.
Bamford might still harbour hopes of being an outside England pick for Euro 2020 but, again, competition will be fierce for the major tournament next summer. If Ireland can convince him that the green jersey is the way to go, then it could go a long way to solving the team’s goalscoring issues at present.
Ireland have now gone seven games without a goal following their goalless stalemate against Bulgaria in their last match of 2020. The high level of withdrawals from the squad due to illness and injury has been well-documented and that has certainly not helped matters. But a host of first-team regulars back in the fold, and Bamford in the number nine jersey next year, could see Ireland back pushing for tournament football once again.