Where does the striker’s heart lie at international level? Goal takes a look at what has been said
After showing plenty of promise as a youngster, Patrick Bamford has finally matured into one of the best strikers in England under the eagle-eyed supervision of legendary coach Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds United.
Having hit 16 goals in the Championship last season, the forward has broken double figures in the Premier League and has contributed his fair share of assists over the course of the campaign.
His form in recent seasons has led to calls for Gareth Southgate to cap him for England in order to tie down a talent who may also be eligible to play for the Republic of Ireland.
Goal examines Bamford’s international eligibility and whether he will ultimately play for the Three Lions or decide to throw his lot in with the Boys in Green.
Will Patrick Bamford play for England or Ireland?
Patrick Bamford has a clear preference to play for England and the striker has rebuffed attentions from Ireland on a number of occasions.
Indeed, while Bamford played for Ireland at Under-18 level, he has only ever been involved with the England set-up from 2010, playing for their U18, U19 and U21 representative teams.
An international career with the Three Lions at senior level has eluded him though and, as he faces into his 28th birthday, it is fair to say that time is running out for him to carve out a place in Southgate’s team.
There have been some suggestions that Bamford could earn a place in England’s Euro 2020 squad, but if he is to catapult himself into the reckoning, he must leapfrog a number of players.
He is currently behind the likes of Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Tammy Abraham, Callum Wilson and Danny Ings, so will need to impress consistently in order to supplant any of them.
The likes of Kane, Rashford and Calvert-Lewin are probably nailed-on inclusions based on their form and reputation, so Bamford will probably be looking for the shirt of Ings, Abraham or Wilson.
What has Patrick Bamford said?
Bamford has been quizzed about his international ambitions on a number of occasions during his career and he has been fairly unequivocal about where his loyalties lie.
In February 2021, he told the Mail on Sunday: “The idea of being selected for England is a dream.
“I thought about it before the last squad was announced and I didn’t sleep properly the night before because I was wondering whether it was going to happen or not.
“I’m probably a bit down the pecking order but I just have to keep doing my thing. If I got one England cap in the whole of my career, I’d be over the moon.”
Just before that, Bamford accepted that a number of players were probably ahead of him in Southgate’s thinking.
“There are four or five strikers who haven’t been involved with England before a lot of times who are doing really well,” he said.
“It’s going to be interesting to see who gets called up. If I do or I don’t, I know I’ve done my best. Whoever does get called up fully deserves it, whether it’s me or any of the others.”
In early 2019, former Ireland manager Mick McCarthy explained that he had spoken to Bamford about potentially playing for the Boys in Green, but Bamford told him he wanted to focus on club football.
Interestingly, too, McCarthy revealed that the striker did not then have the necessary documentation ready anyway – perhaps a suggestion that the idea of playing for Ireland was far from Bamford’s thoughts.
Bamford subsequently addressed the conversation with McCarthy during a Q&A with the Yorkshire Evening Post later that year.
“Some of the stuff that gets written in the press is a load of rubbish,” said the Leeds attacker. “I said to Mick ‘look I had a bad injury last year and I want to concentrate on the season with Leeds’
“I’m not saying no, I’m just concentrating on Leeds. I haven’t closed any doors, I’ve not said yes, I’ve not said no.”
What have others said?
England boss Gareth Southgate left Bamford out of his first squad of 2021 in favour of Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins, but acknowledged that the Leeds man was in his thoughts.
“Patrick is very unfortunate and who knows we could be sitting here in a few days time and we have a problem,” Southgate told reporters. “Patrick is a player that we’re very much looking at as well.”
In winter 2020, The Times reported that the Three Lions boss was “considering” calling Bamford up for November international games against Ireland, Belgium and Iceland.
However, the striker was not called up then either, with Kane, Abraham and Calvert-Lewin deemed sufficient options in the forward line. Nevertheless, Southgate did acknowledge that Bamford was on his radar, noting that the Leeds forward had “done very well” for the newly promoted side.
Southgate has already worked with Bamford with England, having capped the striker during his time as Under-21 boss, so he the pair are already familiar with each other.
In September 2020, newly instated Ireland boss Stephen Kenny explained that he hadn’t spoken to Bamford, but indicated that he was open to the player declaring for the Boys in Green.
“It wouldn’t be fair to be speaking about an individual and what I’d expect of them when I’ve never spoken to them,” Kenny said at the time.
“I wouldn’t entirely know how they feel about their national identity, so I don’t think it’s realistic for me to have an open discussion about a person like that.”
The Ireland boss has said that, while he is “not in the business of persuading players to be Irish”, he remains entirely open to any eligible player declaring for the country.
I don’t agree. Very few feel Irish but know of an Irish FAMILY MEMBER.. I’ve heard the “They buy into us” rubbish but the reality is they never saw themselves in a green shirt and we’re the second option. I honestly wouldn’t want them Bamford included.
— Kevin Kilbane (@kdkilbane77) November 16, 2020
Former Ireland international Kevin Kilbane who, like Bamford, was born in England, has been less open to the prospect, citing his distaste for players who are equivocal about their allegiance.
“I’ve heard the ‘They buy into us’ rubbish, but the reality is they never saw themselves in a green shirt and we’re the second option,” Kilbane said on Twitter.
“I honestly wouldn’t want them, Bamford included.”
Patrick Bamford’s international eligibility explained
Patrick Bamford is eligible to play for England under FIFA’s eligibility rules because he is a British citizen who was born in England.
If he wishes to represent Ireland, he will have to satisfy FIFA’s rules on switching national team.
Bamford represented Ireland at U18 level when he played for Sean McCaffrey’s team in 2010 – interestingly, featuring in an XI that also included current England international Michael Keane.
However, U18 games are not considered ‘official’ by FIFA and thus his ‘first’ association is England, having played for the young Three Lions in official UEFA competition.
In order to switch to Ireland, he will have to formally write to FIFA requesting a change, demonstrating to the FIFA Players Status Committee that he qualifies.
In Bamford’s case, he will have to show that he is an Irish citizen by producing a passport and clarify that held the nationality prior to playing for England at youth level.
His connection to Ireland stems from his mother’s side of the family, through his grandparents.