Harper: We Matched Them For a Lot of the Game
Sunday, 25th Jul 2021 10:19
New signing Rekeem Harper felt he and his team-mates matched Premier League Crystal Palace for long spells of yesterday’s friendly, which the Eagles won 1-0 via a second-half Wilfried Zaha penalty, and says joining the Blues and helping the club to reach its targets is a great step for his career.
TWTD revealed that Harper was set to join Town from West Brom in early June with the deal finally confirmed a fortnight later.
The 21-year-old played 45 minutes of the friendlies at Dartford and Fulham before being involved for the first 75 yesterday.
“I think the boys did very well, we dug deep, we created a lot of chances, we matched them really for a lot of the game,” the Birmingham-born schemer said.
“We were unfortunate to concede a penalty against them but they’re a top-end team and obviously when you make small mistakes that’s what happens.
“But a great result either way and something we can build on going into the season. To a man, well played everyone.”
He added: “It was a great test and when you want to get to the top of football, these are the games you want to be playing in, playing against top-end teams.
“Like I said before, I thought we managed them pretty well. They’ve got quality all over the pitch and to lose 1-0 but come away having created chances and playing as well as we did, it’s a great confidence-booster going into the season.
“There aren’t going to be teams in League One who are going to be keep the ball as well as they did, so we can obviously learn from what they’ve done today and take them into our games because I’m sure we’re going to be having so much of the ball like that too. It’s a great experience really.”
Town’s work-rate, closing down and putting pressure on the ball was evident throughout and Harper says that’s something manager Paul Cook has sought to instil in his side.
“The gaffer’s pretty big on work-rate because now in football with the way the modern game is you have to be able to run and compete because the players you come up against they can run harder, they can do a lot more with the ball now,” he said.
“That’s exactly what he told us and in football if you can guarantee that if you’re going to work hard and pull the team together, and it also helps knowing what the gaffer wants to do, but being able to work hard and not quit gets you the results in football.
“Everyone’s got talent but it’s those extra yards, that extra mentality to keep going. And that’s why today we had a positive performance because everyone to a man was putting in the work.”
Yesterday marked the return of supporters to Portman Road and the former England U17 and U19 international was delighted to see fans in the stands on his first appearance at his new home ground.
“It’s just great to see the fans, great to have them supporting us and I can’t wait go into the season and have them on our side.”
What can those fans expect of him once the season gets under way? “Just someone who is determined to achieve things. I would say I’m a beast, I’m quite focused, I like to excite people when I get on to the pitch and play with real confidence.
“I like to control games, defend, a bit of everything really. Throughout the season, hopefully I’ll go from strength to strength and keep improving my performances.
“For my first performance here at Ipswich, I’m very proud of my performance and long may it continue, and with the support of these fans I’m sure it’s going to get even better.”
He says the much-changed Portman Road dressing room has been very welcoming: “It’s been pretty easy to settle, from day one the changing room has taken me.
“There are a lot of characters, a lot of people that are focused and I think I just came in and was myself and the team’s taken to me. That just makes it easier coming on to the pitch and trusting everyone.
“I’m pretty confident going into the season with the changing room we’ve got that we can achieve our personal goals.”
Reflecting on his departure from West Brom, who he joined aged 12, he said: “West Brom was my childhood club and when you come up with a team for so long and you’re so comfortable in the area, it’s tough to make a decision to make those next steps.
“But Paul Cook has been great for me from day one when they were interested in me, so I felt it was a great step for my career to go and kick-on and help Ipswich reach their targets.”
Did he feel he was at a stage of his career where he needed to move on to another club? “I went on loan last season to Birmingham and I just felt like once you get that experience of playing first-team football, you want to kick-on and keep progressing. I don’t want to stall in football.
“I’ve got big dreams to go and play in the Premier League and that starts now really. I want to build on playing games and helping the team reach their goals.
“As a footballer, everyone will tell you playing football games, there’s nothing better than that. I feel like coming here is a great step for my career.”
Harper says he first became aware of Town’s interest early in the close season: “Quite a while back now, in the summer I would have known there would have been a little bit of interest and things just escalated pretty quickly.
“I knew what I wanted to do when I spoke to Paul Cook and I saw how the town loves football and it’s a great place to come and play.”
Harper admits that the period between the deal being agreed and finally getting confirmed wasn’t ideal but wasn’t getting too worried.
“It was a bit frustrating but I’m a strong believer that nothing’s due before it’s time and I knew that if it was right and it was going to happen, it was going to happen,” he said.
“I was in contact with Paul quite a lot and he was reassuring me and I knew that in the end it would happen.
“It was more time for me to get ready to come here and get ready for pre-season and, to be fair, I came in on the first day of the boys’ pre-season, so I didn’t miss out on anything. And when I came in here it was like I’d been here for weeks. It happened in the right timing for me.”
Photos: TWTD/Matchday Images
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