Chuba Akpom admits that the 2012/13 campaign has been far more progressive than he could have ever imagined.
The striker only turned 17 in October but has already made his debut and scored for England Under-19s, as well as securing a regular starting berth in Terry Burton’s NextGen and under-21 sides. Perhaps most impressively, Akpom was also named on the bench for Arsenal’s Champions League tie at Olympiacos.
“I’m really proud of myself,” he told Arsenal.com. “I analysed the season ahead in pre-season and I was hoping to play regularly for the under-18s and hopefully get some under-21 games under my belt. As it is, I’ve been playing regularly for the under-21s and I’m hoping to push up.
Anyone can get there, but it’s about maintaining it and not just having your debut and then coming back to the youth team. It’s about getting there, staying there and remaining in the boss’ thoughts at all times
“It’s taken me by surprise because I never thought it would happen. Now I just want to maintain that. Anyone can get there, but it’s about maintaining it and not just having your debut and then coming back to the youth team. It’s about getting there, staying there and remaining in the boss’ thoughts at all times.”
It’s that fiercely determined attitude which has aided Akpom’s rise through the ranks.
The striker was coached by the new assistant manager, Steve Bould, at under-18 level last season, and Akpom believes the experience of playing under the ex-Arsenal defender was hugely beneficial.
“As soon as I got out there, he knocked some of my bad habits out of me. I was quite lazy and he told me I wouldn’t become a top player if I wasn’t working my hardest.
“He used to shout at me but I know he wanted to improve me. I know it’s only good for me and I think I’ve learnt a lot from it. When I got to the first team, he still does it, but he does it in a calmer way because he sees I’m working hard now.”
For now, the striker is set to be a part of the side that welcome Fulham to Underhill for Thursday’s FA Youth Cup fourth-round tie.
It is a trophy that Arsenal have not won since Jack Wilshere’s class of 2009, coached by Bould, beat Liverpool 6-2 on aggregate - and Akpom insists the squad are motivated to repeat that success.
“We’re really close. We’re all joking around in the same changing room. If anything, we’re like brothers. I think that shows on the pitch. Everyone understands each other. Nobody’s negative. We’re all positive and just wants to play and win.
We’re really close. We’re all joking around in the same changing room. If anything, we’re like brothers
“Last season, all we did was talk about the Youth Cup and what a great team we’ve got. We’ve got good individuals and most of us are playing above our age group.
“This year we really want it. We want to do what Jack Wilshereand the rest did. It boosts us. It gives us more spirit, because we all want to win it as a team. I think that will take us further.”Admission prices will be £3 for adults and £1 for concessions.Copyright 2014 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 29 Jan 2013