PATRICK Bamford’s step up to the Championship has not only pleased Derby County’s head coach Steve McClaren but also England Under-21 boss Gareth Southgate.
Bamford is enjoying a second loan spell of the season. The 20-year-old Chelsea striker tasted first-team football with MK Dons in League One earlier this season and made an eye-catching impact with 17 goals in 30 games.
Chelsea are keen for the youngster to continue his development out on loan and he has settled in quickly at Derby.
Four goals in five starts speaks for itself and while there are clearly rough edges of his game in need of smoothing out and other aspects he needs to learn, he is an exciting talent of significant potential.
The manner in which he has taken his chances tells us plenty.
He curled in the winning goal in a tight contest against Brighton, possibly with the help of a slight deflection, before his sweetly struck left-foot drive earned Derby a point against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.
Bamford then showed himself capable of grabbing goals from closer in. His diving header from six yards sparked the Rams’ recovery in the 3-2 victory over Yeovil and he smashed the ball in at Birmingham after his first effort rebounded off the bar.
“Patrick is a good finisher, no question about that – his movement in the box is also very good,” said Southgate, who brings his England Under-21 side to Derby next month for a European Championship qualifier against Wales.
Bamford made his under-21 debut as a substitute in England’s last match, a 9-0 defeat of San Marino at Shrewsbury Town’s Greenhous Meadow Stadium.
“Patrick came into our squad late for the last game,” said Southgate. “I have seen him play for England Under-19s and a little bit for Chelsea’s junior teams. I also saw him at MK Dons. It’s great to see him make
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that step up from League One to the Championship and being able to cope with it.
“For all players at this age group they are a work in progress. Patrick is a bright boy and so he knows the importance of working at his game and learning all the time, and a lot of that will just come from playing against better players in matches, like he is now.
“Part of your learning as a young player is on the training ground and part of it is playing. He will probably have to work harder for his chances in the Championship than he did in the division below. He has got that challenge which will bring more out of him.”
Southgate highlighted the competition Bamford faces up front in the England Under-21 set up.
“You look at Saido Berahino (West Bromwich Albion) who has been fantastic for us and Danny Ings, who is top scorer in the Championship, he has also been terrific,” said Southgate.
“We’ve not been able to call in Conor Wickham, who has had a great spell at Sheffield Wednesday, and Harry Kane has scored goals although he is not playing first-team football at the moment.
“Will Keane is coming back to fitness, and he has been in the system right through.
“So there is real competition for places and I think that is driving them all on.”
Berahino has scored six goals in four games for the under-21’s and Derby fans will recall him scoring twice for Peterborough United against the Rams last season.
Ings has scored 24 goals this season for Burnley who are chasing promotion from the Championship. He scored twice in the under-21’s nine-goal rout of San Marino.
Kane, of Tottenham Hotspur, has three goals in his four caps and has represented England at under-17, 19 and 20 levels.
Will Keane, of Manchester United, is the brother of defender Michael Keane who recently spent a loan spell at Derby. Will Keane, who is on loan QPR, has played at under 16, 17, 19 and 21 levels for England.
Andre Wisdom is available to Southgate again after missing the last four matches through suspension.
The Derby defender, on loan from Liverpool, was wearing the captain’s armband when he was sent off against Finland in Tampere in September.
Southgate says he has watched Wisdom play for Derby a few times. “He has started for us at centre back and he is playing right back for Steve McClaren at Derby, which he has done at Liverpool as well,” said Southgate.
“Again, we are very strong in those positions. John Stones at Everton has done very well. Him and Michael Keane have been fantastic for us in the under-21s.
“At right-back, there’s Arsenal’s Carl Jenkinson and Callum Chambers. Callum has got into the first team at Southampton and although he has been with our under-19s up to now, he is somebody who is playing every week in the Premier League and so has to come into consideration as well.
“Picking a squad is difficult.
“It is great for Andre, Patrick and Will Hughes that they are getting a lot of experience playing in a team at Derby that is playing with confidence and is near the top of the league.
“Derby are going to be involved in more important matches and you want to see players play under pressure.”
England’s return clash against Wales in under-21 qualifying is in May and Southgate is aware the Derby players could be involved in the Championship play-offs.
“I always have to have half an eye on the fact they may not be available for the game in May and the tournament in Toulon,” said Southgate. “So you are always trying to manage those sorts of issues because, for sure, Derby will be in the top six, it is just a case of how high in the top six.”