West Brom midfielder Rekeem Harper has paid tribute to the Birmingham City squad for the way they welcomed him during his loan spell last season.
Harper joined Birmingham on loan from the Baggies back in the January transfer window, and went on to make 18 appearances for the Blues, helping them retain their Championship status.
There was one familiar face in the Birmingham dressing for Harper, in the shape of Jonathan Leko, who he had previously been teammates with at West Brom.
Now it seems that the positive review of the club that Harper received from Leko, was backed up by his own experiences at St Andrew’s.
Speaking about his time on loan at Birmingham, Harper told The High Press Podcast: “I spoke to Leko before I went, because he’d been there for a few months. He said it’s a very good club and I’d get opportunities there.
“All the players there were so nice and welcoming, from the first day I felt at ease. There’s a mixture of young players and experienced players who have been there and done it.
“That’s the best thing – you can learn from the experienced ones and the young players are on the same journey as you.
“It was very enjoyable; I came to play and prove to myself I can play at this level and Blues gave me the opportunity.”
With Birmingham having been battling against relegation at the time of Harper’s arrival, it also appears as though this loan spell was a new experience for the 21-year-old, who revealed: “When you playing for West Brom in the Championship, it’s like playing for Manchester City.
“The players are always going to be confident, but with Birmingham, when I arrived they had lost a few games so the confidence had taken a knock.
“When we were losing games, you felt like things were on egg-shells. Players were less confident and you could feel it in the group.
“You never know when you might win your next game, you might need a bit of luck or what not.
“You had that feeling that you didn’t know when you were going to win your next game, but you have to be ready, you have to switch it on quickly and do your job for the team to help them win games.
“I learnt a lot there. Hopefully it’s going to stand me in good stead in my career.”
This is an intriguing insight that Harper has issued into the Birmingham dressing room here.
When he joined, the Blues were battling relegation under Aitor Karanka, and it seems as though that is something that was taking its toll on the players.
That is something that is perhaps understandable given the pressure that will have been on them, particularly given the size and expectation for a club such as Birmingham.
However, they were able to turn things around following the appointment of Lee Bowyer, and that is something that Harper may now be able to build on next season, if he can establish himself as a regular at West Brom.