ACE PAT HAS THE BRAINS TO BE A PREM HIT
STRENGTH is great. Pace is better. But when it comes to succeeding in the top flight, nothing tops instinct and technique.
Charlie Austin’s eight goals for lowly QPR are testament to that. And it’s why Middlesbrough’s Chelsea loanee Patrick Bamford will surely follow suit.
The 21-year-old has now netted eight times for Boro to add to the 25 he hit for Derby and MK Dons last season. Last weekend’s performance against the Rams was a masterful exhibition of all-round forward play that showed all the hallmarks of a class player in the making.
Many are the musclebound speedsters who’ve ripped up the lower divisions by dint of overwhelming physical force, only to fluff it at the summit of the game.
Rob Earnshaw, Dave Nugent, Nathan Ellington, Marlon King – all of them appeared to shrink and slow in the face of top-flight defenders.
But those with wit and wiliness, with that untrainable nose for being in the right place at the right time – they are the men no hulking centre-back can stop.
Players without the physical attributes subconsciously compensate with technique and intelligence. If you can’t leave a man for dead or shrug him off, you need to shoot early or drift into his blind spot.
In the helter-skelter Championship, that’s useful but not vital. Higher up, where defenders are smarter and chances rarer, it is everything.
Bamford isn’t the biggest, the fastest or the strongest. Nor were Teddy Sheringham, Eidur Gudjohnsen or Dennis Bergkamp. But all of them could craft a chance and finish it, the single most valuable currency in the game.
Bamford – who looks like he’s running in sludge but invariably hits the target – is exactly the same.