Patrick Bamford's position in the striker battle for England's 2022 World Cup squad

Patrick Bamford made a successful return from his ankle injury for Leeds’ Under-23s and faces a fight to force his way into Gareth Southgate’s World Cup plans

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Mao Zedong, that famous Chinese football commentator, once said that a journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.

And at Manchester City on Monday night, Patrick Bamford took his first step on the 3,336-mile road which he hopes will lead to Qatar.

Bamford came through the full 90 minutes for Leeds ’ Under-23s against City in his first game back since recovering from the ankle injury which has sidelined him since mid-September.

The injury came at a sickening time for Bamford, just days after he had won his first England cap in the Three Lions’ World Cup qualifying with over Andorra.

After years of striving, Bamford had finally fulfilled his dream of playing for England.

Patrick Bamford has been out since injuring his ankle in mid-September


Getty Images)

Now he faces another uphill battle to book a place on the England flight to Qatar in fewer than 12 months time for the World Cup.

Bamford, 28, must elbow his way past his international rivals to put himself in the mix for Qatar.

He largely got his first call-up in September because Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s injury left a space in Southgate’s squad and the Everton striker is due back before the end of the year.

Southgate sees Bamford and Calvert-Lewin as similar type of strikers and deposing the Blues forward, who has netted four times from his 11 international appearances, will not be easy for the Leeds man.

Tammy Abraham is back in favour under Southgate and has made three England appearances this season, scoring against Andorra.

Southgate likes the way Abraham made the bold decision to take himself out of his comfort zone in the Premier League and relaunch his career in Serie A under Jose Mourinho at Roma.

Chuck in Ollie Watkins, Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and the undroppable Harry Kane and the competition among England’s strikers is intense.

The clock is also ticking for Bamford and England have just three get-togethers before they jet off to the Middle East.

They will play a couple of friendlies in March and four Nations League games in June and then two final friendlies in September.

These international breaks do not give Bamford much time to impress Southgate and he must catch his eye in the second half of this season.

Bamford will be hoping to catch Gareth Southgate’s eye in the second half of the season


Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

He must recapture his scoring touch from last season when he bagged 17 Premier League goals.

He had managed just one in six appearances for Leeds before his injury and he returns to a United side struggling for consistency.

That makes his task even harder and Leeds are not creating as many chances as they were last season.

Yet if Bamford has proved anything in his career, it is that he can overcome adversity.

He has shrugged off more snubs and rejections than most and he will be determined to give it his all to make it to Qatar.

That fight starts now.

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