Saturday, 25 October 2014

Boro's Bamford Block

Once upon a time, Boro's attack raised troubling questions for opposition defences on the pitch and Boro fans off it.

As winning as the diamond combination of Lee Tomlin, Albert Adomah, Adam Reach and Kike have proved to be – Boro's recent wins against Fulham and Brighton can attest to that – there was once the very real concern that Aitor Karanka had no back up of proven, consistent quality, were injuries and suspensions to intervene.

Now we have quality in reserve. Rotation is possible.

Unfortunately, the curious case of Patrick Bamford is so far proving that you can sometimes have too much of a good thing in the same position.

In his first game for Boro, the 21-year-old played in the Tomlin role behind Kike against Reading at home, but could not inspire as Boro fell to an early Simon Cox goal. He had to wait until Boro were back to winning ways after the international break before getting another start, and this time, he managed 76 minutes in Kike's place against Brentford, scoring Boro's third goal before Boro's Spanish goalden boy replaced him and added a fourth. He then had his moment in the Boro spotlight with that late, late game saving penalty at Anfield, even though Jamal Blackman had to rescue him from a penalty shoot out miss before he completed his atonement later. So far, not so bad.

But what about beyond then? It so happens that we did not win either of the two recent matches he started, whether he was partnering Kike against Charlton with Adomah, Tomlin and Reach behind him, or playing in front of Tomlin with Emmanuel Ledesma and Reach as wingers against Blackpool. He may have looked lively and determined against Charlton, but was he stepping on Kike's toes in a role both strikers wanted to have? And in our recent victories against Fulham and Brighton, Bamford did not play at all: Karanka started with his now tried and trusted attacking quartet, with Emilio Nsue and Jelle Vossen used as substitutes.

He started again at Molineux, with Vossen as his partner, just like against Brentford. Except this time the pair failed to click and we lost.

It's turning into a rather sad state of affairs for the young striker. As Philip Tallentire has said, Bamford is "large in stature and extremely mobile", and has the ingredients to succeed in this league, given time.

The problem is, we might not have the time to give him. His loan deal expires on January 1.

Worse still, he is playing in the shadow of Kike, already a hero in Boro fans' eyes.

It is worrying for Bamford that he is the sole forward Boro haven't really “warmed” to: we don't know if he's suited for the Lee Tomlin role, he didn't have a Twitter campaign to “free” him, and he hadn't the luxury of being Boro's lone experienced striking option when he arrived, like Kike did.

He arrived as a “reserve”, a “second choice”, an “alternative to what was already there” - something that did no good for Boro forwards such as Szilard Nemeth or Dong Gook Lee, for all their inadequacies.

Like Javier Hernandez at Manchester United, Bamford doesn't look like the sort who will settle for being an impact player, nor has he really seemed like fitting into AK's systems to date.

It may well be that he will repeatedly have to succeed off the substitute's bench, or wait for Kike's absence to grab his own chance with both hands. One would not want to see Bamford wasted out wide like Ishmael Miller and Alex Nimely were under Tony Mowbray, or Nemeth was at times under Steve McClaren.

Can Boro do anything for him?

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