Focused Bartley on form, fitness & leadership

Kyle Bartley says there are a multitude of reasons behind his impressive form this season - not least his return to full fitness following a difficult period last term.

The 6ft4in centre-half has now made more appearances for Albion than for any of his previous seven clubs, after knee surgery last summer saw him return to pain-free football.

And the 28-year-old, who considers himself a leader, believes playing in his natural central position - rather than on the left of a back three - has also helped him earn the plaudits of Baggies fans.

“My performances have been better than last year,” he smiled. “I have always said if I am healthy and fully fit that I believe in myself and my ability.

“It is not something to get carried away with, there is a long way of the season to go so I will just keep myself focused and keep my head down and continue working hard.

“The change in formation helps, as I am playing in my natural position. Last season I struggled a lot with my injuries, I had an operation at the end of the season for something which I was carrying throughout the year. I think the improvement is a mixture of those two things and being fully fit this year.

He added: “Ever since I was younger, I have always considered myself a leader. I am very vocal, I like to communicate on the pitch and off it. As an experienced player, especially now I take that upon myself to try and marshal that backline and help the boys as much as I can.”

His glittering performances have earned him a tongue-in-cheek chant from supporters suggesting he should win the next Ballon d’Or, and Kyle, who clearly understands the irony and sentiment of his song, admits it’s nice to have the fans on side.

“My brother mentioned something to me the other day, can you sing it?

“I’ve not heard it yet, but it’s nice. I doubt it though!”

On Albion’s Sky Bet Championship form going into Monday’s Hawthorns clash with Stoke City, he added: “The table shows we have been doing a good job.”

“We started the season really well and through that little middle patch in November I thought we were great. Recently our performances have dipped a little bit and I think results have shown that. I think it’s time for us to get back on track, continue working hard and hopefully get the results that our work deserves.

“Nothing has changed. Throughout the season every team goes through little patches when they are not at quite their best and sometimes a little bit of luck goes against you or certain decisions and I think that is what has happened. I have told the boys it is not a time to panic. It is a time to stick together and keep working hard and the results will soon change.

“The boss has said similar things to what I have said. He can see every day out there on the training pitch that we are continuing to work hard and we’re doing what he wants, but things haven’t quite gone our way. It is time to re-focus and continue doing what we have been doing throughout the season.”

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