PATIENCE is a virtue. After a will-he, won’t he week long wait, Patrick Bamford has opted to sign for Boro on a year long loan. He is fast, direct, good in the air and comes with a proven goal-scoring record in the Championship. He will be a useful addition to the team, taking some of the burden off Kike and adding tactical options as well as firepower.
But a lot of Boro fans would have given up on him long again. Plenty would have blown him out last week when he asked for time to think about joining our heroes. Some got in a real Paddy on Twitter and made their point forcefully if not diplomatically. How dare he want to mull over a move to mighty Boro at a pivotal point in his career! Who does he think he is? And how soft were the club to let him take the Micky like that? We should tell him to sign on the dotted here and now or leg it! Or words to that effect.
But it doesn’t work like that.
Just because we as fans would walk over broken glass to play for Boro doesn’t mean players with no affiliation would. Professionals are pragmatists and his primary concerns will have been: will I get a game? Will it raise my profile? Will it advance my career? If I score a lot of goals will I get in Chelsea’s team next year? Is there a Porsche garage nearby? Will my WAG get on with Yarm’s ladies who lunch? They are all pressing concerns for an in-demand young talent in what could be a decisive season.
He had other options. Wolves and Reading were interested among others and although Jose was urging him to go to Boro as it was more in tune with the Chelsea philosophy you can’t blame the lad for wanting to weigh up everything. His entourage – agents, friends, family – would certainly have been telling him to explore every offer. Football is a precarious business. One bad choice, one injury, one high -profile mistake and you can be sidelined and a has-been before you know it. There is always a lot to mull over.
Bamford was up to visit Rockiffe last week. He’s been a few times now. He’s talked over the situation with Aitor. And Jose. He seen the facilities and dined in the Orangerie and Big Ken has give him a glowing report of the club, the squad and the area. And Bamford sent out a lot of positive signals. If he hadn’t Boro wouldn’t have wasted time working on it. He was keen but concerned. And it was clearly well advanced even though the deal wasn’t done. Aitor Karanka doesn’t normally talk about “other club’s players” but was so confident he publicly outlined his plans of where to play him and set him a 20 goal target.
But then it went quiet and there was no decision from Bamford. Boro set a loose deadline of “over the weekend” (which over a Bank Holiday extends to a Monday remember) and when he didn’t appear in a shirt first thing on Saturday morning there was a sudden panic among supporters. Twitter reported him as being at Forest v Reading and the jitters set in. Surely he would sign for one of them! (He’s a Forest fan and frequent visitor to the City Ground but don’t let that get in the way of a gloomy spiral).
Then Wolves were touted as rivals. Then a circular cyber-rumour linked him with Reading and cynics had their daft quid on him scoring the winner here on Saturday (even though there wasn’t a sniff of anything concrete in the Berkshire press.)
Then, with all parties agreed, it was revealed on Tuesday that the deal was done, that Bamford was on his way for a medical and to finalise things and that if all went smoothly then he could even make his debut against Preston. And then we waited again. We were assured by the chairman that everything was done and Boro were waiting on one final bit of routine paperwork. And after the game Karanka confirmed that: it is a minor detail, he said. Bamford would be here in time for Saturday. So we waited. And the jitters began again as fans filled the vacuum with their own fears and predicted “another” cock-up.
But patience is a virtue. We have said that several times over this close season. Boro made their intentions clear, talked to the player and put a persuasive argument based on football criteria as well as financial muscle and waited. That has been their policy all summer. KIke had to be persuade too. He took six weeks and several visits to Rockliffe to convince that Boro were a better bet than his Spanish suitors. The Clayton deal had to be steered through some rocky waters and the club stuck with it long after many fans would have abandoned ship and others had opened social media hostilities with the player.
They waited. Fans may not like that. It is at odds with the immediacy of the modern world. But Boro didn’t want to force an early decision with an ultimatum in case he said no. Boro didn’t want Jose to get heavy on him and twist his arm. They wanted a willing volunteer not a pressed man. They wanted Bamford to decide for himself that Boro was where he needed to be. That he could flourish and contribute and enjoy. So they gave him the time to make his decision freely (while working on possible alternatives all the while).
They did and he agreed. Hurray! And then they had to wait again, this time to finalise the paperwork. And all teh while against a background on increasing anxiety from outside. No matter how instantaneous the internet has made information, in real life the wheels of some things still turn at a mundane pace.
Aitor Karanka has been courting Bamford for ages. He first inquired in January but the England Under-21 international had already committed to a stint at Derby. Karanka went back in May with a statement of intent and was given a sympathetic hearing by Jose. Bamford was at the top of the list of potential Chelsea targets when Boro met up with Stamford Bridge staff earlier this month and they were all agreed: a stint for the striker at a club with a similar training regime and philosophy would be beneficial for all. Lewis Baker was also on the list and could quickly follow Bamford with the terms all but agreed.
Bamford was initially reluctant, mainly because he was aware that Boro play one up front and that they had spent heavily on Kike who was first choice. He wasn’t so much worried about moving to the frozen North as concerned that he would be parked on the bench for long spells whereas Wolves and Reading, among others, may make him their main man.
But Karanka outlined his plans – which revolve around more tactical flexibility and playing two up top whenever possible – and that settled his nerves. Boro have been ideologically wedded to 4231 under the Spaniard so far, a system that chimes with the Chelsea approach that both Aitor and Jose played at Real Madrid but at times it has been too conservative and limited by the lack of teeth up front.
Karanka intends to tweak that this term and plans to play Kike AND Bamford. Having had a good look at the Championship the boss is feeling his way to a more attacking outlook and he he hinted he is ready to switch between different formations – possibly 4312 or 433 at home and a more solid 4231 away – and that Bamford has a key role in that. He isn’t going to hit that 20 goal target from the bench.
And with the Bamford paperwork done it seems likely that fellow Stamford Bridge starlet Lewis Baker’s own loan move will also now be wrapped up quickly. The attacking midfielder was a key part of Chelsea’s FA Youth Cup and Premier League Academy League winning side last term and is highly rated by Jose. He should be a welcome addition and give more creative option. George Saville, also on Aitor’s litle list, won’t be joining though. He has opted for Wolves instead. You can’t win them all.
And Boro haven’t finished there. They also want another attacking option – a creative midfielder who can play wide left and/or in the No10 role to compete with Lee Tomlin. With Bamford sealed on loan that means they now know what is left of their transfer and wages budget. Had he drifted they would have had to commit cash to their back-up option and that would have had a knock on effect on their recruitment plans. Now their patience and persistence has been rewarded they can press ahead with several possible targets.
It could be a busy week.