Rekeem Harper says Albion’s midfield quality motivates him to “raise his game” in an attempt to force his way back into the first-team.
The 19-year-old made an accomplished return to the senior side for Sunday’s Emirates FA Cup victory at Charlton Athletic – his first appearance since August.
Harper, who signed a new three-year contract at The Hawthorns in July 2019, has found minutes hard to come by as a result of the impressive partnership struck up by captain Jake Livermore and summer signing Romaine Sawyers.
But Rekeem has accepted that playing the waiting game is part of professional football and insists he has to work harder than his experienced team-mates to prove his worth to Slaven Bilić.
He said: “There’s so much quality in the middle of the pitch. I see it every week.
“If I’m honest, it makes me want to raise my game to show the boss what I can do and what I can offer that’s different to the other midfielders.
“I played a few games last season and this season I wanted to try and kick on. I’ve accepted that it’s part of my journey to have plenty of experienced players ahead of me.
“The team has been doing very well this season and together we are all going for one goal. I’m ready for when called upon. I want to play my part in the team.
“I felt a buzz when I was back out on the pitch against Charlton. Playing in front of a crowd with my number on the back of my shirt.
“It’s made me hungry to get back out there and show the fans what I can do.”
He added: “Slaven has worked with me a lot on things such as checking shoulders, getting on the half-turn and becoming a powerful midfielder.
“He’s wanted me to work hard and show him how good I am every day.
“A lot of our midfielders are experienced players so I have to do more to show him what I can do.
“He’s been a great help for me and I can tell that he likes me. I’m thankful that I have a manager that watches out for me and who will help my game in the long run.”
The promising youngster has only featured once in the Sky Bet Championship so far this season, but Harper’s determination to become an Albion regular certainly hasn’t diminished.
“I’m very excited to continue my development here.
“I want to achieve great things with this big club. I want to be a player who plays regularly here and that’s always been my aim.
“It’s been an exciting year. I posted a picture on my Instagram of all my memories recently and I didn’t actually realise how much I have done.
“I’ve played in lots of games and lots of wins and I’ve been part of the first team in the last 12 months. It’s been incredible really.
“This latter part of the year has been a bit different because I’ve had a lot of competition, we’ve brought in plenty of quality players and the team has been doing really well.
“At the same time I have to remember that I’m still only 19. I’ve got a lot to learn and a lot to prove. But I’m excited because if I’m already here now, I think about what I could be in the next five or six years.
“I just have to take all the lessons and experiences I can from the other midfielders who I train with every day and try to keep improving. I am confident in myself that I can achieve big things here.”