This article is part of Football League World’s ‘FLW Greats’ series, this content strand is where we look back on a player’s individual season and discuss how impressive they were…
The 2014-15 season was one which didn’t promise a huge amount in pre-season, but almost paid out with the ultimate prize.
Aitor Karanka has steadied the ship at the Riverside Stadium the season before and this was his first real opportunity to make his mark on the Middlesbrough squad and show that he meant business.
He certainly did that.
The signings of Kike Garcia and Jelle Vossen were shrewd signings to bolster the Teessiders’ mis-firing attack, but late in August one player arrived with plenty of hype around him.
Patrick Bamford was regarded as one of the brightest prospects in Chelsea’s academy set-up, and after a stunning debut year in the professional game he was ready to get firing for Middlesbrough.
The fresh-faced striker scored 17 goals during the first half of the previous season while with MK Dons, before scoring another eight for Derby County in the second half of the season.
His apprenticeship was complete and this was the season that the (then) 21-year-old was expected to take off.
In truth his season got off to a slow start as he was limited to a number of cameo appearances, however, a debut goal in the 4-0 victory over Brentford in September was all it took to get him firing.
What followed was a stunning run of form for Bamford, as the frontman netted six times in seven fixtures to move the Teessiders into the automatic promotion spots – a position which seemed to be unprecedented given the rebuild that was still taking place.
The last game of that run was a 2-0 home victory over Derby County which saw the striker score one and create another against his former club – a performance which clearly meant a lot to the boyhood Nottingham Forest fan.
What made Patrick Bamford’s performances even more impressive was that he was often asked to play the slightly unfamiliar role of roaming from the flank – however, in truth, this was a role that suited him perfectly due to his intelligent movement and his need to play off of a more traditional lone striker figure.
One defeat in 18 games followed for Aitor Karanka’s side who really had the bit between their teeth as they looked to go all of the way, and Bamford’s versatility was a key part of this – even when goals weren’t flowing as naturally as they previously had.
But in true Patrick Bamford style he returned to goalscoring form at the perfect time as he scored six goals in seven games once again to move Middlesbrough to the cusp of promotion with just four games to go.
This included a stunning brace to secure a 4-1 victory over Ipswich Town at the Riverside Stadium, and a wonderful solo effort to record a 1-0 victory in a promotion six-pointer against Derby County.
Things were going perfectly for Bamford until he picked up an ankle injury in an away victory over Norwich City – a knock which would stop the Chelsea man from finding his best form in the closing games and into the play-offs.
To Bamford’s credit, he played through the pain barrier in the season’s penultimate clash with Fulham, before being rested for the last game against Brighton.
Middlesbrough were drawn with Brentford in the play-offs, but Bamford was only fit enough to feature in the away leg at Griffin Park.
But even then it was clear to see that he was far from fully fit.
Can you name where these 15 Middlesbrough players started their career?
He occupied the bench for the second leg due to be saved as an emergency substitute, but a one-sided victory meant that risking the striker was not necessary.
From that point on it was all about preparing for the play-off final and the key question of ‘will Patrick Bamford be fit to play at Wembley?’
An intense course of injections meant that he did play for Middlesbrough in ‘the richest game in football’, but a half-fit Patrick Bamford was not enough to see the Teessiders through as they suffered a gut-wrenching 2-0 defeat to Norwich City.
It was a season that looked to be one which would see Patrick Bamford guide Middlesbrough all of the way to the Premier League, but unfortunately there wasn’t to be a happy ending to that narrative.
However, on an individual level 19 goals and the Championship’s Player Of The Year award capped a stunning year for Patrick Bamford, and one which would cement his place as one of the second tier’s most consistent strikers.