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Interviews

‘I’m over the moon’ - Harper

17 February 2019

Local-boy Rekeem Harper emerged from a triumphant Albion dressing room at Villa Park beaming with delight after tasting his first derby victory.

Albion's exciting 18-year-old prospect played his part in the 2-0 victory over Aston Villa, initially displaying his midfield skills before taking on a more advanced role in a second-half reshuffle. 

Born and raised between The Hawthorns and Villa Park, and schooled at Aston Manor, his phone was buzzing with messages from friends soon after the final whistle.

And he was revelling in the rivalry of a historic contest which drew yet another impressive away performance from Darren Moore's team.

"I'm over the moon," he said. "When it's local you just want to prove you're the best and I think we've shown that.

"I'm from an area close to Aston, and when I signed for West Brom, the message was always 'we have to do better than the other side'.

"I've got a lot of friends who are Villa fans and I went to a school called Aston Manor - obviously people in the area support their club. 

"There was probably a lot of them watching the game today, and it as like 'unlucky'. My phone is going off!

"But I thought I did well. I helped the team get up the pitch and defensively we were solid. Going forward I found myself a little new position as well, No.10, I liked it and enjoyed it. I'm just glad we got the win.

"I used to be a striker and I've played in the No.10 role before as well. 

"I've played there before so it's not hard for me to adapt back to that position. I know what the gaffer expects from me, if I make mistakes, I'll still try and do it because that's how you learn.

"But I'll just do anything for the team."

Of course, it was no bad thing to have a player of his captain's status alongside him on probably the most challenging occasion of Rekeem's fledgling career.

Gareth Barry, a former Villa captain given a standing ovation by both sets of supporters when he left the game with a slight knock near the end, nursed the youngster through derby. 

The teenager said: "Gareth always encourages me. If I make mistakes he tells me to keep going and be positive. I know if I work hard and I've got that around me I can keep improving.

"Gaz is just a legend, he's been around for ages and it's amazing too play alongside him."

As for the season's main challenge of promotion, Rekeem says confidence that Albion can get back to the top flight is building - and praised his Head Coach for encouraging such a positive approach.

"He just encourages you to play to your strengths," he says, "and if we do that, and come together as one, we're confident we can get the job done, whatever game we're playing.

"Obviously, we just want to be playing at the highest level. We've got the players to be in the Premier League so we just need to stay focused on the task at hand, and try and push for it."


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