Chuba Akpom received the best possible present when he turned 17 - his first professional contract.
The 17-year-old has started the season promisingly - seeing his fine form earn him both a regular starting berth in Terry Burton’s Under-21 side and numerous call-ups to Noel Blake’s England Under-19 squad.
Akpom was delighted to sign professionally for Arsenal - but admits he is surprised at the rapid rate of his progress,
“It’s been a bit of a shock really,” he told the Official Matchday Programme. “In the summer I was looking forward to football being my full-time job and my initial target was to seal a place in the Under-18s, but Terry Burton picked me to play and I scored in the pre-season game at Boreham Wood. Everything seems to have grown from there.
“I’ve not really trained with the Under- 18s since the beginning of the season and I’m with the Reserves all the time. It has certainly helped my progress because when you are playing with and against more experienced players you raise your game. You learn from them and the challenges are tougher.”
“I was told that I was being offered a contract before and it would happen once I was 17, but it was still fantastic, a dream come true.
“My whole family was there and I spoke with Mr Wenger. He told me that he’d been watching me play and liked what I do, but said I should be scoring more headed goals – so I suppose he set me another challenge there and then. It was a proud day for me and my family, who were there to share in the occasion with me, but I know that this is just the beginning.
“What it has done is instil even more responsibility. It is my job – I feel that I a man now, and I have to make the most of the opportunity I have. Last year I used to find it hard to get motivated to get up in the mornings for school. Now I go to bed looking forward to getting up and going to training. My job is doing what I love, playing football, and you cannot get better than that.”Copyright 2016 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source