During the late 1970s, Baggies fans had the thrill of watching ‘The Three Degrees’, a trio that consisted of Cyrille Regis, Laurie Cunningham, and Brendon Batson.
The name was inspired by the eponymous pop group from across the pond, and as their music dazzled listeners out in the States, West Brom’s Three Degrees dazzled spectators at the Hawthorns.
They were, and still are, widely regarded as three of the best players West Bromwich Albion have ever had. They lit up the field with their swift, attacking football, and were a sight to behold for the many fans who travelled to watch them.
However, all good things must come to an end, and when Laurie Cunningham signed for Real Madrid in 1982 (the first Englishman to play for Los Blancos), the Baggies lost the edge that had made them so dominant during that period and were forced to start a rebuild.
There hasn’t been such an iconic trio in the famous blue and white stripes since – but is that about to change?
Home-grown talents Rekeem Harper, Kyle Edwards, and Jonathan Leko certainly have the on-field flair and charisma to get the crowd off their seats. They also seem to share a true passion for the club itself, which is exactly what West Brom need if they want to start building a foundation for the future.
And now, with Slaven Bilic keen on giving the youngsters more game time to account for the many departures this summer, the trio could finally get a chance to show fans just what they’re capable of.
Bilic espouses a footballing philosophy that tends to focus on developing promising young prospects at a club, rather than spending hefty amounts of cash on imported players.
And this is something that’s bound to hold him in good stead ahead of an inevitably gruelling 46-game campaign in the Championship. The first team need at least one player prepared to take their place for when fatigue kicks in, and without a huge squad to choose from, Bilic’s only real option is to give the youngsters a chance.
This isn’t going to be too much trouble for the Croatian, though, as some of the prospects ready to step up show huge promise; if they can get game time and plenty of encouragement, then there’s no doubt that they could flourish this season.
The likes of Dara O’Shea, Nathan Ferguson, and Sam Field are some other exciting youngsters on the up at the Hawthorns, but Kyle Edwards, Rekeem Harper, and Jonathan Leko are the ones to watch…
Rekeem HarperEmbed from Getty Images
Rekeem Harper is a central midfielder who began to play more regularly throughout last season, featuring in 17 matches for the Baggies, clinching a goal and an assist in the process.
While some players in his role tend to appear clumsy and awkward, Harper is a refreshing change. He glides with the ball in the centre of the park, and, when necessary, won’t hesitate to pelt an inch-perfect pass across the pitch and spark life back into the crowd.
As a result, it’s easy to see why so many fans will be hoping that the 19-year-old can become a permanent fixture in the midfield this season.
Kyle EdwardsEmbed from Getty Images
“We need Kyle, he’s shown in every training session that he’s ready. He needs our help, he’s a kid, but on the other side he’s 21, so he’s ready. It’s about time. We’re going to help him. I’m counting big time on Kyle.”Slaven Bilic [Express and Star]
Kyle Edwards is a left midfielder who, like Harper, finally started to get the game time he deserved last season. And although he only made six appearances, he still managed to make a big impact by scoring the winning goal against Brentford back in March.
One thing’s for certain with Edwards this season: he needs to break into the first team. In the modern game, a 21-year-old who still sits on the fringe of the first team is at risk of suddenly dropping out of the picture altogether.
It’s make-or-break time for Edwards now, but given just how well he’s performed throughout West Brom’s pre-season, the upcoming campaign could very well be his chance to prove just how valuable he can be to the side.
Moreover, with Bilic often favouring an attacking style of play, Edwards will be able to showcase his pace, dribbling ability and eye for goal, and possibly cement himself a permanent spot out on the left flank.
Jonathan LekoEmbed from Getty Images
“Jonathan Leko has got everything.”Slaven Bilic [Express and Star]
With Rekeem Harper controlling the midfield, Kyle Edwards dominating the left flank, and Jonathan Leko causing havoc on the right, you can start to picture just how much of a threat these three could be to the opposition.
Leko is more of a right winger than a right midfielder, and utilises his pace to weave in and out of full-backs before whipping in a cross for our strikers to knock home.
But with just three appearances to his name last season, it’s clear that the 20-year-old is lagging behind Harper and Edwards slightly; however that’s not to say things won’t change, because several managers who’ve coached Leko in the past have all confirmed that he could develop into something special.
And the same can be said for Harper and Edwards as well; they might be on the verge of breaking into the first team already, but considering what they could potentially become a few years from now, the idea of them being dubbed “The New Three Degrees” is certainly a possibility…