West Bromwich Albion boss Slaven Bilic has been speaking about the future of his midfielder Rekeem Harper.
The 19-year-old Englishman was heavily linked with a move to Celtic earlier this summer, following the expiry of his contract at the Baggies. He was expected to join the Hoops and bolster their midfield ranks before a dramatic change arrived in the midlands.
That change was Bilic, who took over at the Hawthorns in the middle of June and immediately set about trying to convince Harper to stay. It worked. Now the Croatian isn’t about to lose the youngster before the end of the European window.
“Definitely not, we can’t (sell him before the end of the window),” Bilic told the Birmingham Mail.
“He’s a great talent. I insisted that he stayed, because he was out of contract. I rate him extremely highly and I have had meetings with him and talks. He’s improving a lot since then, the quality was never in doubt, and he’s getting there.
“Like any other player he has to be patient, work hard, and wait for his chance that is going to come 100 per cent, probably soon.”
Bilic hasn’t exactly shoehorned Harper into his team
Harper has had to bide his time in the opening few months of the season. He’s featured in just seven minutes of West Brom’s five game league season so far.
His only competitive start arrived in the EFL Cup defeat to Millwall – when Bilic made wholesale changes from the previous match. In fact, Harper has been so unfancied so far this season that former Celtic loanee Oliver Burke has seen more game time.
The Scotland international has featured in two of the Baggies’ league matches as well as the aforementioned Millwall cup tie. Bilic had some words of advice for the 22-year-old too.
“With Burkey, what I like is he didn’t sink after not being in the 18. They reacted really positively, he’s also good.
“From my point of view, the both of them are staying, both of them are good players we are going to need this season.”
Celtic fans will just be glad that the disappointing attacker is nowhere near their ranks as they prepare to head to Ibrox this weekend. The youngster’s performance in Govan back in May will be remembered for a lot of the wrong reasons.