Kyle Naughton is living up to the mother of all promises following his rise to the Barclays Premier League.
Having worked his way to the top-flight of English football, the new Swansea City right-back was able to fulfil a pledge he made his mother when he was growing up in Sheffield.
Naughton may have made it to the big time, but he certainly hadn’t forgotten his roots on his way to the top.
“Growing up, it was all my mum,” insists the 26-year-old, who made his Swans debut in the 1-0 victory at Southampton last weekend. “She looked after us all; she did everything.
“My mum would come home from work, tidy up, cook dinner, take me to football, come back, and then take my sister somewhere. She did everything for us. In many ways, I owe it all to my mum, to be fair.
“I think, like most players, when you start earning a reasonable amount of money, you want to help your family – your mum, brothers and sisters.
“When I started at Sheffield United, I bought my mum a house and a car, as well as a car for my sister. The house was a nice semi in Sheffield, and it’s a step up from the house that our family has lived in ever since my mum was little.
“I feel fortunate and grateful to be able to do it for her and it’s nice to give something back, but I think most players try and help out at home, which is all I did.”
Home is certainly where the heart is for Swansea’s new right-back, who points to the image tattooed on his lower torso, a picture of the estate he grew up on in his hometown of Sheffield.
It was the place where he first kicked a ball around with friends, where he has made countless memories and the place where his career in football began.
“I loved every minute of it,” Naughton beams as he reflects on happy memories of his childhood. “I wouldn’t change growing up there for anything. I really enjoyed it.
“I remember playing football with other kids on the estate and through school, pretty much like any other kid. Then one day I got a letter that came through the door inviting me for trials with the then Sheffield United School of Excellence, and that’s where it all started.”
Naughton, who joined the Blades at the age of seven, went on to captain Sheffield United’s academy side before cutting his senior teeth with a loan move to Gretna in the Scottish Premier League.
The now-dissolved club enjoyed a rapid rise to Scotland’s top-flight division but, during Naughton’s season-long stay, were placed into administration.
Despite their troubles, the promising full-back was a regular fixture in the Gretna first-team.
“Bradford first came in to have a look at me to take me on trial but didn’t quite fancy me, which is why I went to Gretna in Scotland,” adds Naughton.
“You could say my time there toughened me up a bit. I was in the reserves at Sheffield United, so it was something you kind of have to do at that age.
“The SPL was a great place to be, with big clubs like Celtic, Rangers, Hearts and Hibs there. For me, it wasn’t just about the team I was playing for; it was also about the teams we were playing against.
“My debut was against Rangers, and they got bigger crowds than Sheffield United were getting at the time, so it was a great experience to help me deal with playing in front of big crowds.”
Naughton’s experience in Scotland helped the former England Under-21 international force his way into then-Blades manager Kevin Blackwell’s first-team thoughts upon his return to the club.
At the end of his breakthrough season with the Blades, having cemented his place in Sheffield’s starting eleven, he was voted Young Player of the Year by the United supporters club and was included in the PFA Championship Team of the Year.
“I did quite well with Gretna and really enjoyed my time there, despite the off-field problems the club were enduring,” he adds.
“As soon as I came back to Sheffield United, I went into their first-team and managed to get into the Championship Team of the Year at the end of the season. Ever since then, it’s been onwards and upwards.”
Naughton’s impressive performances in the second tier of English football saw Tottenham come calling in 2009 when they signed the Sheffield-born player along with fellow Blades youngster Kyle Walker for a combined fee of £9 million.
The former Blade then enjoyed loan spells back in the Championship with Middlesbrough and Leicester City, where his exciting displays once again earned him recognition in the division’s PFA Team of the Year, before he got his first taste of Premier League football when he moved on loan to Norwich City in 2012.
“I’ve had the opportunity to play in different leagues, and the styles of football are different everywhere you go, especially in Scotland,” says Naughton. “I think that has really helped me.
“I’ve had quite a few loan moves over my career, but I actually played 34 games last season for Spurs, which is a fair amount.
“I’ve played in European football for two seasons with Spurs in the Europa League, which has also been a great experience for me.”
But part of Naughton’s decision to leave the English capital for life in the coastal city of Wales was to try and hold down a regular starting spot at a Premier League club after finding himself in and out of the Spurs side.
And after speaking to former Swans Ben Davies and Michel Vorm prior to leaving London, Naughton was convinced that Swansea was the perfect place for him to settle down.
“They told me that Swansea is a great footballing club and a place where it’s easy to get on with everyone,” reveals Naughton. “It kind of feels like a family.
“They only had good things to say, other than the fact that it can be quite cold and wet in this part of the world. But that’s as bad as it got!
“I think this is one of the best places you can come to settle down and push on. I’ve had quite a few loan moves, so trying to hold down a regular place is one of the reasons why I came here.
“When you look at Swansea you see how others have thrived at the club. Wayne (Routledge) had been to quite a few clubs like myself but has been able to really push on with his career here.
“The same with Nathan. He had gone on a few loans and came to us (at Sheffield United) and wasn’t playing at first, but as soon as he did you could see he was some player.”
Family comes first for Kyle, as shown by his generosity in looking after his mum and sister following his successful career path to the Premier League, so it was no surprise that he felt right at home on his first morning at the club’s Fairwood Training Ground.
“As soon as I walked in that morning, I could see for myself that the club had a real family-feel to it. I had a really warm welcome.
“I think it helped that I knew the likes of Nathan, Tom Carroll and Siggy (Sigurdsson), who I have all played with before. I’ve settled in now.”
But before Naughton could feel completely at ease in his new surroundings, he had to get his ‘initiation’ out of the way – something every new Swansea City player has to endure on their first away trip with the club.
And despite playing in front of over 40,000 people at Ibrox on his senior debut as a 19-year-old, the nerves he felt that day didn’t compare to those he felt when he stood up to sing in front of his team-mates.
“I felt more nervous about it than going out to play a big game,” Naughton laughs. “It’s quite scary standing there in front of everyone, but I went with a Biggy Smalls track in the end.
“I think it went down quite well; I didn’t get too much stick. I got a few words wrong, and a few of the lads shouted a bit of stick, but it was fine.”
Naughton followed up his vocal performance with a promising debut at St. Mary’s last weekend, playing his part in Swansea’s ninth clean sheet of the season. And if he continues to impress in a Swans shirt, it won’t be long until the Jack Army are the ones singing his praises.