Fringe talent could be on the verge of having his West Brom career transformed - opinion

This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…

Earlier in the week, the worst kept secret at West Brom was finally revealed as Gareth Barry officially re-signed with the club.

The 38-year-old’s original contract expired back in June, but he continued to train with the club while recovering from injury, and manager Slaven Bilic had always made it clear on his intentions to keep hold of the veteran midfielder.

At one stage, it looked unlikely to even happen as a snag involving his former club Everton nearly put pay to any deal with the Premier League club due money from any agreement, but that was soon resolved.

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Barry originally joined the Hawthorns under Tony Pulis in the summer of 2017 and has gone on to make 55 appearances even despite his age.

But that is why he is still hanging around.

The Albion boss said in an interview that Barry’s presence would be a boost to their promotion hopes, but it would also impact the youngsters at the club:

“He would be a major boost for us and one that comes from within too. He already knows the place and most of the players. We have a lot of young players. At times they need the kind of support that he can bring.”

His experience is unprecedented, having made 653 appearances in the Premier League, which is very much the end goal for the everyone involved at the Hawthorns.

As Bilic says, this decision was made for off-the-field reasons just as much as anything else, so a player like Rekeem Harper should get excited as his career could well be revived by having such a figure around.

The 19-year-old was probably one of the most highly-rated prospects amongst the academy setup, so much so that Liverpool and Juventus were in for him in the summer until the Croatian persuaded him to stay in the west Midlands.

Yet, he’s only been limited to just six minutes of Championship action, which came on the opening day. He hasn’t even been named in the matchday squad since August either, per Transfermarkt.

Harper was one of the few youngsters that weren’t sent out on loan, such as Sam Field and Jonathan Leko who both joined Charlton Athletic, so he clearly has a decent opportunity to break into Bilic’s senior thoughts, although it’s just not happened yet.

This is where Barry comes in, he can help mentor the young prospect into what he should have become a long time ago.

He signed a three-year deal in the summer, so there is plenty of time still on his side.

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