middlesbrough striker Patrick Bamford’s beaming expression after the final whistle against Leeds United on Friday night said it all.
He was back in business after the first professional hat-trick of his career – and back in his favoured central striking role, too.
Bamford, enjoying a Boro renaissance to rekindle memories of his 19-goal haul in the 2014-15 campaign on Teesside that saw him named as the Championship’s player of the season, said: “I am enjoying my football now. I am happy to be playing up front.
“I am sure everybody knows that is what I ideally want to do. We have been through that a lot of times.
“I am a striker and that’s where I want to play. I knew when I got my chance to go up front at Sunderland that I had to take it. Fortunately I did.”
Bamford’s haul of six goals in his past three matches has also helped ease the pain of a tough past few years in his career, but despite some difficulties he believes that the adversity has helped him become a stronger and more mature individual.
He added: “To be honest the last few years have probably helped me in terms of how I handle being in and out of the side. As much as it has been frustrating not to be in the team I think I have probably matured because of it.
“Earlier in my career, when I was at (Crystal) Palace and Norwich, I know I took things quite badly. I didn’t really handle that stage of my career very well. The same was true at Burnley.
“But I think as I have learned and grown up I knew what to do this time when I was left out of the team. I knew I had to work and keep my head on things, and that is paying off so far.”
While Bamford’s re-emergence has been prominent, the remarkable transformation of Adama Traore continues apace with the flying winger having a hand in two of Bamford’s goals on Friday to continue his outstanding form.
Bamford said: “I said before the game, ‘You had better assist me with at least one goal’. We had a laugh about that.
“You can say that he is unplayable when he gets in that kind of mood, and his final pass is getting better and better.”