It’s fair to say that Chelsea aren’t best known for fast tracking youth into their first team.
However, one of those talents was certainly in the thoughts of Jose Mourinho – Patrick Bamford.
Snapped up for £1.5m in January 2012, Bamford technically isn’t a product of Chelsea’s youth system. Having been at Nottingham Forest since the age of 8, Bamford’s excellent performances in the FA Youth Cup tempted Chelsea into making the purchase, despite just 12 minutes of first team action under his belt.
Nottingham Forest chairman Frank Clark called it “a sign of the times”, but the fee represented good value considering the player had six months left on his contract. Then 18 years old, Bamford took to his new surroundings quickly, making his debut and scoring twice for the reserves in a win against Gillingham.
That form continued as he scored six goals in seven youth games, especially impressive given he was often deployed on the wings or just behind Lukaku, despite favouring the striking role as his own.
A move to League One side MK Dons took Bamford into the world of first-team football in November 2012, and once again he provided a memorable debut, with three assists against Colchester United.
An unfortunate run of injuries delayed his course, but with his loan at the Dons extended, scored his first professional goal in a 2-1 defeat to Crewe Alexandra in March 2013.
Bamford returned to MK Dons at the start of the 2013-14 season for a second, much more prolific spell.
He scored 14 goals in 23 League One appearances, prompting Chelsea to sit up and take notice, looking to let him have a crack of the whip at a higher level.
Derby County granted Bamford exactly that, as they gained momentum under new boss Steve McClaren and reached the play-off final.
Signing for his childhood club’s bitter rivals was never going to be an easy thing to do, but Bamford’s professionalism and determination to prove himself helped him acclimatise.
Bamford finished the season with eight goals and a cruel playoff final defeat for Derby, his personal tally standing at 25 in all competitions for the season across both loans.
Returning to Chelsea that summer, he was faced by Mourinho and confidently informed him that it was his intention to play for Chelsea.
The suggestion of having a bit part role as a third striker was an idea, but when Didier Drogba arrived for his second spell, Bamford knew another loan was his short term future.
His physical development has improved since being in the Football League – wiry and lean and over six feet tall, yet strong, with good acceleration and pace to help find the finish.
Perhaps most respectable is his attitude, and it’s little wonder Mourinho was keeping a close eye on him. Intelligent, pragmatic and humble with a lot of confidence for a 21-year-old, defying his status in the game.
Clearly, Bamford is of sound enough mind to understand his own value without having delusions of grandeur.
His first full season in the Championship very much suggested that he can step up, scoring 17 goals in 32 league starts for Middlesbrough, a record not to be scoffed at for a player plying his trade in League One the previous year, and in the youth leagues the year before.
He also netted against Sunderland, Liverpool and Manchester City in various cup ties, so is no stranger to Premier League defences.
Aitor Karanka was Mourinho’s assistant during his spell managing Real Madrid, so there’s history between the two and they both seem to have seen the same thing in Bamford.
It’s known that they conversed regularly about a variety of topics, including the form and future of Bamford, with Mourinho keen on regular updates from his friend.
While his development was very much in the hands of Mourinho, the player himself did his chances no harm at all at Middlesbrough.
Bamford’s maturity also speaks volumes over his readiness to make the jump from the top of the Championship to the the Premier League.
There’s no doubt that Bamford could excel in the Premier League at some point, this season may be a little early, but who’s to reject him that chance?
Either way, if you earn yourself the nickname Bamfordinho, you must be doing something right.