West Brom have sanctioned the temporary departure of Rekeem Harper this week…
The out-of-favour midfielder has joined Championship outfit Birmingham City on loan until the end of the season, following in the footsteps of former Baggies attacker Jonathan Leko, who made a permanent switch in the summer.
The 20-year-old academy graduate has struggled for game time since making his debut in 2017, which was also the year of his first and only other loan spell away from the Midlands club.
Which means for the past two to three seasons, he’s pretty much been restricted to U23s football, even despite being earmarked as a future star by many former Albion manager – if those transfer links weren’t anything to go by above.
Indeed, Harper has only played 42 times for the first-team, of which only 17 have come since the start of the 2019/20 campaign, per Transfermarkt.
This could well be the last chance saloon for the former England U20 international as it’s hard to envisage him breaking into Sam Allardyce’s plans if firstly, he’s not currently in them despite their ongoing struggles and relegation battle, and secondly, if he fails to hit the ground running at St Andrew’s Stadium.
After Tony Pulis first promoted him into the senior fold, then-academy coach Jimmy Shan likened his ability to Premier League great Patrick Vieira, he told reporters:
“He can be a classic box-to-box midfielder like Patrick Vieira, he can play in a two or a three. He can play holding midfield, number 10 or number eight. He really is a talent who has got a lot of potential and the good thing is he’s working hard at his game.”
Similar thoughts were echoed by ex-boss Darren Moore, who said: “He excites the fans, he’s young, energetic, fresh, he’s enjoying his game, fearless – all the components of a really good player,” and then Bilic too: “I never denied that I love him as a player – I love those kind of players, who are powerhouses but can pass the ball, that’s great.”
Evidently, he now needs to prove that talent otherwise it’s going to be another case of unfulfilled potential at West Brom, another Saido Berahino, perhaps.
Though, now still only 27, he finds himself trying to salvage his career over in Belgium, playing for Charleroi on loan from Zulte Waregam.
If Harper isn’t careful, then he’s in grave danger of becoming the next Berahino. He must deliver at Birmingham in these next six months. Those links to Liverpool and Juventus are a mere memory for the time being.
AND in other news, Dowling must avoid Rickie Lambert 2.0 in “full-blooded” £9m-rated colossus…