AMID the rollercoaster of fabulous football but ultimate failure that was Marcelo Bielsa’s first year at the helm of Leeds United, some players could never do right for doing wrong in the eyes of supporters.
Patrick Bamford, despite scoring nine goals in 15 league starts, bore the brunt of the frustration that enveloped Elland Road during a run-in that saw hopes of a Premier League return flounder.
He was even the subject of sarcastic cheers after finding the net during the warm-up at Preston North End in April.
The former Middlesbrough striker, though, was far from alone in facing flack with Adam Forshaw and Jack Harrison among a few in Bielsa’s squad who discovered the hard way that staying away from social media in the aftermath of a bad result was advisable.
Those who have already binge-watched ‘Take Us Home’, the six-part docu-series that was released to much fanfare last Friday by Amazon, will know that this online abuse hurt.
“People forget you’re a person,” Forshaw told the producers in episode four. “People are lying if they say it doesn’t affect you because it does. You have to have thick skin because it does affect you.”
The fans get on me if I miss chances. It hurts not to score but if I am getting chances then I am doing something right. I know they will go in eventually. Two of the scrappiest goals I have scored but I take them.Patrick Bamford
Judging by not only Forshaw’s impressive performance at Wigan but also those of Harrison and Bamford, redemption in the eyes of even their harshest critics may well be on the way for the trio.
Forshaw was the midfield driving force of a victory achieved thanks to two goals from Bamford, while Harrison also continued the huge strides taken by the Manchester City loanee since returning for a second season on loan.
“It is my second year and I do feel to have settled down more,” said Harrison. “After the ups and downs of last year, it makes you better equipped.
“Hearing the fans sing my name was great. They have been critical of me in the past but I understand this. This is a big club and you have to be prepared to work hard.”
As for Bamford and Forshaw, the 22-year-old loanee added: “Pat never lets things get to him. You can see his potential and his goal-scoring ability up front. He is a great example.
“Same with Adam. He does so much work on and off the ball. You have to give him full credit for that.”
Whether Forshaw starts to get that credit from his online critics remains to be seen.
But there can be little doubt the Liverpudlian has played a big part in United sitting top of the fledgling Championship table.
As with the opening weekend win at Bristol City, Forshaw added to his usual defensive work the ability to become an important cog in Bielsa’s attacking machine.
He was constantly getting forward when United had the ball, a deft touch here or a pass out wide there causing untold problems for Wigan.
But for David Marshall’s reflexes, Forshaw would have opened the scoring with a powerful header from Mateusz Klich’s right wing cross.
As it was, that honour fell to Bamford who pounced on a rebound that came via a post to touch the ball over the line.
Forshaw also went close in the second half, his flicked header from a lovely Barry Douglas cross beating Marshall but not the post.
Nine minutes of the second half had elapsed when the Latics were given that let-off. It had been far from the only one for a host side down to 10 men since the opening quarter thanks to the stupidity of Joe Williams.
Having just been booked for a foul on Stuart Dallas, the summer signing from Everton really should have had more sense after being awarded a free-kick than to lunge at Bamford.
Referee Andy Madley had no hesitation in showing a second yellow card to leave Paul Cook’s men a man down.
Back on Good Friday, such a handicap had not prevented Wigan from beating Leeds 2-1 at Elland Road.
But there rarely looked a chance of a repeat once Bamford had opened the scoring. He then made sure of the points midway through the second half, another tap-in ensuring justice was done after Madley had missed a blatant penalty when Antonee Robinson turned Pablo Hernandez’s cross behind with his arm.
“My two goals were probably from a combined two yards out but I take them,” said Bamford after finding the net for a third time in three league games.
“People were saying the pressure was on my shoulders but I don’t really see it like that. Anyway, I like that pressure.
“I put pressure on myself all the time. If I score two goals, I want three. If I score three, I want four.
“The fans get on me if I miss chances. It hurts not to score but if I am getting chances then I am doing something right. I know they will go in eventually.
“Two of the scrappiest goals I have scored but I take them.”
As for Leeds sitting top going into Wednesday’s game with Brentford, Bamford added: “We are only three games in but it is nice to be up there.”