Reports by The Telegraph earlier this week claimed that Newcastle United are keeping close tabs on Kyle Bartley’s situation at West Bromwich Albion.
However, the Magpies moving to sign Bartley at the end of the season smacks of Mike Ashley planning for relegation to the Championship.
The centre-back will enter the final 12 months of his £13,500-per-week contract in June and could be made available for the right price.
Bartley is expected to be among the players of interest for rival clubs in the off-season should West Brom fail to remain in the Premier League, with the Baggies facing a 10-point deficit to Newcastle in 17th.
The Toon are understood to be in the market for a new central defender this summer and could swoop for Bartley, but may face competition from Burnley. Sean Dyche’s Clarets are also monitoring the 29-year-old as the Turf Moor natives look to bring in cover for James Tarkowski and Ben Mee.
Newcastle currently have four natural centre-backs in the first team fold in Jamaal Lascelles, Fabian Schar, Ciaran Clark and Federico Fernandez – plus the versatile Paul Dummett – but Schar and Fernandez are both set to be free agents this summer.
Newcastle losing one of or both Schar and Fernandez at the end of the season would force the St James’ Park natives to explore signing replacements, but the benefits of a move to land Bartley would be questionable.
Bartley has rarely proven to be a Premier League calibre defender over his six seasons in the division, with the current campaign his only one to feature double-digit appearances.
The £2.5m-rated enforcer has started 19 of his 21 league outings for the Baggies thus far this term, accounting for half of his career haul of 42 top-flight appearances after earning an average of 4.2 a season over five campaigns with Swansea City between 2012 and 2018.
Bartley was a key factor behind West Brom securing promotion from the Championship as runners-up to Leeds United last season, with 37 starts in 38 appearances from a possible 46 in the division, but his performances have often stayed at that level.
While improvements have come since Sam Allardyce was appointed in December, issues have remained in Bartley’s game which could raise alarm bells at Newcastle if Bruce is able to keep the Magpies in the top-flight.
“His weaknesses, I would say, lie in his positioning, which has occasionally been called into question,” Birmingham Live’s Baggies reporter Joseph Chapman told Lancs Live. “Sometimes this season he’s been caught out and, as is often the case at this level, it results in a goal. But even that’s improved since Sam arrived.
“Bartley has another year left on his deal with Albion. He’s not immediately a player you think of attracting top-flight interest when you consider that they have the likes of [Sam] Johnstone and Matheus Pereira, who will almost certainly have suitors.
“I think he is someone who, if you asked the average Albion fan on the street, would be content with him continuing in the starting XI in the Championship, which is highly likely where Albion will be.”
Chapman’s remarks would hardly instil much confidence in Bartley being a worthwhile pickup for Newcastle in the off-season as a Premier League side, but rather a move by Ashley to prepare the Toon for life in the Championship.
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