Leeds United look unlikely to see Patrick Bamford again this season amid a stark reality check on his fitness from the striker himself.
The 2021/22 campaign has become to forget for the 28-year-old. Having struck 17 goals last season – the second highest English goalscorer in the Premier League – Bamford was rewarded with a precious England cap against Andorra in September. However, just two weeks later, the striker was to suffer the first of a multiple of cruel injury blows.
That came at Newcastle when, during a 1-1 draw on September 17, he sustained a problematic ankle injury.
His struggle to recover lingered on for far longer than anyone expected. When he did return – making a goalscoring return as a substitute against Brentford – Bamford pulled a hamstring during his celebrations.
Various issues following on from that continued to keep Bamford on the sidelines. And during his absence, Bamford saw the departure of adored coach Marcelo Bielsa, with the Argentine replaced by Jesse Marsch.
Bamford finally made his Leeds return in Marsch’s second game; the disappointing 3-0 home loss to Aston Villa. A start against Norwich followed later that week, as Leeds recorded a vital 2-1 win.
Managing his return carefully, Bamford was withdrawn at half-time before a similar plan was put in place for the trip to Molineux.
However, that Friday night encounter saw Bamford rupture the plantar fascia in the heel of his foot.
A painful injury, Bamford is likely to be missing for around six weeks.
Were he to remain on course, that could see Bamford back in action for the final three games of the season.
Bamford looking towards next season
Leeds, however, will hope they are safe by that stage, with their relegation fears easing a little in recent weeks.
However, Bamford insists he’s not in the frame of mind to rush back. And realistically, does not expect to return until next season.
“I kind of know that there’s a good chance that I won’t play again this season. And, if I do, it’s a bonus,” Bamford said.
“In my head already I have set my target on the start of next season. I am working towards that and trying to get in the best shape possible for that so I think that is going to help for me.”
Speaking to BBC’s Football Focus, Bamford insists he will return if Leeds are still in relegation trouble.
“I’ll play, 100 per cent. It does depend a lot on the team situation so, if we do need the points and there are a couple of games at the end which are really important and I am there or thereabouts, then I will push it to come back because I know that we have got the break in the summer.
“Ideally, we won’t be in that position but, if the team needs me, then I will kind of push my way through it.”
Joe Gelhardt on Leeds United growth
One man who has benefited from Bamford’s continued absence is teenage striker Joe Gelhardt.
He has racked up over 500 minutes of first-team action, proving himself more than capable too with two goals and one assist.
A regular performer for the Under-23s too, Gelhardt has assessed his progress for Leeds and how he splits his time between the sides.
“It’s a lot harder physically playing with the first team but then you go back down to the 23s and we have got a group of lads who do the same as well,” Gelhardt said.
“We are not the type of people who will take our foot off the gas just because it’s an under 23s game.
“We will always try our best and treat it like a first team game and get the most out of it.
“For me, it’s a bit weird if it’s not at Elland Road with the fans and whatever to give you that extra boost but you still give it 100 per cent always.”