Leeds United v Burton: Kyle Bartley is happy to remain out of spotlight in rearguard action

Kyle Bartley has shored up Leeds United's defence alongside Pontus Jansson since his loan move from Swansea.
Kyle Bartley has shored up Leeds United's defence alongside Pontus Jansson since his loan move from Swansea.
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HE does not enjoy cult hero status among Leeds United supporters. Nor has he been immortalised in a terrace anthem by those same fans.

But, like defensive partner – and new darling of Elland Road – Pontus Jansson, Kyle Bartley is proving to be an inspired signing by head coach Garry Monk.

Brought in on a season-long loan from Swansea City, the 25-year-old has, with a minimum of fuss, gone about the job of helping bolster what for several years had been one of the Championship’s more suspect rearguards.

His ability has really come to the fore since Jansson joined on loan from Torino a couple of weeks into the season, but Bartley’s vocal marshalling of both the back four and the two holding midfielders in the system favoured by Monk has been a big feature of how United have played all season.

Despite that, most of the focus has fallen on Jansson with supporters making clear their appreciation of the Swede with a terrace ditty that includes the line, ‘And if you chuck a brick at him, he’ll head the f***** back’.

Bartley laughs when asked by The Yorkshire Post if he wishes the Gelderd End had come up with something similar for him before adding: “It doesn’t bother me being in the spotlight or anything like that.

“I just want to help the team and try to get the three points. As captain, I just want to improve everyone else. I want to talk to people and make sure we are all on top of things.

“Pontus has done brilliantly. He has slotted straight in and it is great to play with him. But the whole team has helped make us better defensively, including the midfield and the attack.

“It is a team effort, not just one or two people.”

Jansson’s impressive displays since moving to England have inevitably led to calls for the transfer to be made permanent.

Torino have intimated that there is provision within the loan for that particular outcome in January for a substantial seven-figure sum.

Whether United will follow through on that remains to be seen, but regular watchers of Monk’s side must surely agree that there would be equal merit in trying also to make Bartley’s switch permanent.

Certainly, the Swansea man has impressed since becoming one of the first signings made by a manager he played under in south Wales.

“The gaffer is someone I know well and his ideas are coming across here at Leeds,” said Stockport-born Bartley, who joined the Swans in a £1m deal from Arsenal in the summer of 2012.

“He has been here a few months and I can see the players have all bought into his way of doing things.

“Our squad is very young so that means it is going to take time for all the ideas to sink in – and for everyone to get their heads around it.

“But anyone who watches us can see we are playing a lot better football. We are very solid and that was what the gaffer wanted.

“We are not far away from being where we want to be.”

Another team-mate with whom Bartley has struck up an instant understanding is right-back Luke Ayling, who moved north from Bristol City just a few days into the new season. This should not, however, be a surprise with the pair having first met as apprentices at Arsenal.

Back then, the duo partnered each other at centre-half and the bond is so strong that they have since regularly holidayed with each other and mutual friends.

Reunited in West Yorkshire, Bartley and Ayling – plus their respective girlfriends – now share a house so it is perhaps no wonder that the Swansea loanee feels so at home in Leeds.

“I am really enjoying it here,” said Bartley, United’s captain in the absence of the injured Liam Bridcutt. “We are making really good progress as a team.

“The manager spoke in pre-season about how it might take a little bit of time. There were 10, 11 or 12 new players who came in along with a new management and staff. We needed time for all the ideas to work themselves out.

“But I think you can see over the last few weeks that it is really coming together. As a team, we look a lot more solid defensively and if we can sort out our attacking threat a little bit more then we will be fine.

“That is on all of us, the defence and midfield as well as the forwards. That way we can kill off games.”

United host Burton Albion for the first time today sitting 10th in the Championship. It is a position they occupied for just three weeks last season, and two of those were down to the September international break.

Clearly, Leeds need to stick around in the top 10 for much longer this time around. Victory today would be a major boost in those ambitions, not least because United’s next two fixtures will be against Norwich City and Newcastle United.

“The Championship is very difficult,” added Bartley, who along with Leeds has a trip to Liverpool in the EFL Cup to look forward to next month. “Very demanding physically and such a tight league. There really isn’t a lot between the teams.

“It is not like the Premier League where there is a lot of difference in terms of class between clubs. The Championship is also relentless. But I really enjoy it. After a disappointing result, you have an immediate chance to make amends.

“I like that because in the Premier League there is usually a full week and that can be too long. People can focus too much on it. The flipside is that when you win, another game comes around very quickly so you can’t enjoy the victory. But, again, I like that.

“I was at Birmingham a couple of years ago and I think the Championship has moved on since then. The standard is high, but we are only a few points off the play-offs and we all know that a couple of wins can make all the difference to where a team is in the table.”