This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
West Bromwich Albion return to Championship action this weekend after their quest for promotion to the promised land was put on hold for two weeks.
The Baggies host a Sheffield Wednesday side that currently sit on the cusp of the playoffs at the Hawthorns on Saturday afternoon.
Slaven Bilic’s men have a two-point cushion over the chasing pack of Preston North End and Leeds United, so they will be looking for a result to keep them at arm’s length.
Although, their task is made all that more difficult through the absence of midfield duo Jake Livermore and Romaine Sawyers, who have started every single league game together this season.
One man’s loss is another man’s gain.
Bilic does not have a wealth of reliable options in the role, so it really could be a free-for-all for a spot in the starting line up.
Each potential replacement comes with some sort of drawback – Gareth Barry has only just returned from a career-threatening injury, Filip Krovinovic is more of a number ten, Chris Brunt has played just 13 minutes from three substitute appearances, and Semi Ajayi is centre-back by trade.
How about Rekeem Harper?
The 19-year-old box-to-box prospect has only played six minutes in the league this campaign and has not even featured in a matchday squad since August.
Now there is a huge opportunity to prove himself.
His manager’s incoming decision on team selection will speak volumes about his future career, and not necessarily just in the west Midlands.
If he plays?
It will give him a chance to showcase the talent that has had him hyped up as one of the Baggies’ brightest young talents – Total Football Analysis have compared his style of play to both former Spurs midfielder Mousa Dembele and their current powerhouse Tanguy Ndombele as he possesses raw power, passing and strong dribbling.
West Brom fans have only seen him feature 27 times since his debut in August 2017, so there is a case to be made over how unfulfilled his potential really is – Harper was just the second player born post-2000 to play in the top-flight.
The Albion starlet needs to grasp this chance if it’s handed to him so that he can forge a career in the blue and white stripes.
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If he doesn’t play?
Then his time at the Hawthorns may be coming to an end as if he can’t start in the absence of two players in his position, then what hope does he have for the rest of the season.
His lack of game time under the Croatian must also open up serious doubts to any potential suitors that may want to take him on loan, or if push comes to shove, permanently.
We will surely soon find out Harper’s true destiny by full-time on Saturday afternoon.