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Kyle Bartley's West Brom return praised as a key boost

Kyle Bartley's return has been labelled a 'big boost' for Albion's run-in this season after the defender came through unscathed in an under-21s clash.

Kyle Bartley came through 60 minutes for Albion's under-21s in a 4-0 defeat to Villa under-21s after almost three months injured (Photo by Adam Fradgley/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images).
Kyle Bartley came through 60 minutes for Albion's under-21s in a 4-0 defeat to Villa under-21s after almost three months injured (Photo by Adam Fradgley/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images).

The 31-year-old centre-back has not played for two-and-a-half months, since the Baggies' final game before the World Cup break, due to a muscle problem in his leg.

His return was delayed but Bartley finally managed a run out in Friday night's derby PL2 clash against Villa's under-21s at The Hawthorns, where Bartley was unable to prevent the hosts going down 4-0 to deserved winners Villa.

"Absolutely yes, Kyle came through unscathed and I thought he was decent, it was good to see him back on the pitch, that's what it was for," said said under-21s boss and former caretaker manager Richard Beale of Bartley's pre-planned hour of action.

"It's a big boost for the team for the run-in, having someone of Kyle's experience and quality back.

"It was really good to see him out there tonight and come through unscathed."

Bartley was in exceptional form in the early weeks of Carlos Corberan's reign. He was a key performer in either box and chipped in with big goals against QPR and Stoke.

The powerful defender then triggered a 12-month extension in his contract due to an appearance-related clause.

Beale's side were looking to build on a fine win at high-flying Leeds last time out but not for the first time this season came unstuck at The Hawthorns, away from their regular home of Hednesford Town's Keys Park.

Josh Griffiths, featuring for the first time since his loan recall from League One Portsmouth, allowed a tame striker from distance to squirm through his grasp for Tommi O'Reilly second-minute opener.

Brad Young, formerly of Albion's academy, fired a brace either side of half-time and another ex-Baggies youth Arjan Raikhy made it four on a night a strong Villa under-21s outfit were deserved winners.

Beale's side, as well as Bartley and Griffiths, featured a sprinkling of under-18s players, aged 16 and 17. Top scorer Reyes Cleary limped off after 22 minutes having rolled his ankle, he left the stadium in a protective boot but the setback is not thought to be serious.

Also among the Baggies ranks were two trialists, one from the start and one an early replacement for Cleary.

Both were wingers and Trialist A, the starter, is thought to be Chelsea youngster Silko Thomas, an 18-year-old linked with Southampton this month. He was bright late on but the contest had long gone in Villa's favour, as Albion remain fifth in Division Two.

"We were beaten by a better team tonight and fair play to Villa, they played very, very well," admitted Beale.

"There were some really good bits to learn and we talked about that. Unfortunately we didn't really turn up in the first half, show enough personality, get tight enough to people.

"That sometimes happens in a 21s team, a few nervous players at times, a mixture (of players), we had Kyle (Bartley) come in, Josh (Griffiths), we hadn't trained as a team, some young players and a couple of players with the first team which is to be celebrated.

"It can happen, but taking nothing away from Villa, they were better than us.

"If we'd have played with a bit more of a defensive personality, especially out of possession, we could've given them a better game, like we did at Leeds last week with a similar sort of team, another team that pay a lot of money for players, we don't do that here, so we're blooding 16 and 17-year-olds and trialists and the difference told."

"They are the ones that showed more personality than the other ones!" Beale added of the young scholars involved. "Which bodes really well for them, that's the biggest lesson in there, personality, desire, doggedness and determination.

"It can get you a career, you can look at somebody opposite, maybe a bit quicker and stronger than you, I can think of many footballers with more determination and doggedness to get a career right to the top levels."

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