West Bromwich Albion boss Slaven Bilic has hinted at Rekeem Harper’s immediate future at the club following an impressive outing against Charlton Athletic in the FA Cup over the weekend.
The Baggies advanced into the fourth round with a 1-0 win at The Valley on Sunday afternoon, setting up a tie with Bilic’s former club, West Ham United.
While the ‘Grady Diangana derby’ isn’t for several weeks, a lot can happen in that time given the transfer window is open for business.
After making 11 changes to the starting XI, it’s clear to see how the Croatian views the competition in comparison to their quest for promotion from the Championship.
Which means we may well see the likes of Harper feature more frequently. Following the match, Bilic spoke about the 19-year-old central midfielder. He said:
“If we think about him and only him, then a loan could help him, but I have to put the club first.
“When he plays like he did at Charlton I would rather keep him. Definitely.
“He was very good, he was very aggressive, very dominant. I was extremely pleased with him. He was a big plus for us and I’m very glad about that.
“His talent was never in doubt, I was the one who persuaded him to stay and sign a contract. Why he hasn’t had a chance so far is because of the quality we have in midfield.”
These are hugely positive comments as Harper has clearly taken the rare chance handed to him, although it could all be in vain as Bilic has offered false pretences in the past.
Harper very nearly left the club in the summer with teams like Liverpool and Juventus circling in on him, but the then newly appointed Baggies boss managed to convince him to stay.
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He even went on to say that he would be a big part of his plans this season, per an interview with the Express & Star.
The Albion prospect has played just six minutes in the Championship this season – hardly a ‘big’ part, is it?
Of course, he has both Jake Livermore and Romaine Sawyers ahead of him, but when both were absent last month, he wasn’t even handed a chance then.
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Bilic would like Harper to stay at the Hawthorns this month, so if he is putting the club first like he says he is, then he’s going to have to give him further game time in order to keep him happy.
That’s the only way this situation can benefit West Brom – hindering the potential of the midfielder by not playing is doing the complete opposite, whereas a loan move would breed long-term gains for all involved.