Until this season only some, but not most, will have known the name Kyle Bartley – yet the former Arsenal defender has blossomed into not only one of the best centre backs in the Championship but a dark horse for player of the season. That has been helped in no small part by his equally impressive partner Pontas Janssen, nor should the faith shown in him by Gary Monk be forgotten.
When my Leeds supporting colleague told me “we are linked to a Swansea defender called Bartley” I enthusiastically told him that it would be a season changing signing.
So for those of you who do not watch Sky Sports Leeds (a story for another blog) let me introduce you to the man who, with or without Leeds (and I believe with), will be back in the Premier League next season.
Kyle came up through the ranks at Arsenal where he played in a very successful youth side that included Jack Wilshere, Emmanuel Frimpong, Francis Coquelin, Henri Lansbury, Jay Emmanuele-Thomas and current team mate Luke Ayling.
During his time he managed to captain the side of various occassions and they won the FA Youth Cup.
After two loan spells and over thirty appearances at Sheffield United Bartley would emerge in Glasgow when Rangers took him on loan. He very quickly struck together a strong partnership with David Weir and survived the temperment test in Old Firm Derbies. He would be part of a squad that won league and cup in 2010/11 making 5 appearances (scoring once) during his first loan spell. He returned the following year making a further 19 appearances.
Current Leeds boss Garry Monk could see his potential and signed him up to his Swansea squad for a fee believed to be £1m. Serious injury hampered his progress and limited his chances during his first season in Wales so in July 2013 he agreed a loan move to Birmingham
Despite limited preseason exposure he was in the starting eleven for the first few games of the campaign, scoring his first senior goal in English football against Plymouth. Sadly his lack of match fitness was telling and in January he returned to Swansea.
This season all that potential is starting to be realised and on loan Bartley has become an integral part of Leeds promotion push. Having already made over 30 appearances this season and equalling his entire career goals tally (4 this season 8 in total) the centre back has the right blend of modern culture mixed with with old school attributes to be a truely influential member of the squad, he has even skippered the side.
The boy once labelled “the next Tony Adams” has grown up and has impressed, so much so that Monk was quoted in December 2016 as suggesting Bartley was good enough for England. He is going to be a big factor in whether Leeds do go up or not and I for one cannot wait to see him play against the likes of Costa, Aguero and Ibrahimovic every week.