CHRISTIAN BURGESS says that his time on loan at Hartlepool United is playing a huge part in his development as a player.

The 22-year-old centreback has impressed during his loan spell at Victoria Park, which has recently been extended until the end of the season, and feels that he has improved as a player due to his regular exposure to first-team football.

He said: “It’s playing a vital role in my development, a necessity, for sure.

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“It’s given me a lot of experience playing league football and hardened me as a player. I’ve learnt to deal with a lot more aerial football and played against different types of strikers and different pairings, which has taught me a lot and hopefully made me a better player for it.”

The 6ft 4inch defender has established himself as a regular member of Hartlepool’s starting line-up this season, his first full campaign in the professional game, and has earned rave reviews of his manager Colin Cooper – who believes he can break into Middlesbrough’s first-team line-up when he returns to his parent club next campaign.

The partnership has been mutually beneficial, though, as Burgess feels he has learnt a lot from his manager’s past experiences.

He said: “Obviously to have a manager who has so much experience in the same position I play has its advantages and I’ve learnt a lot through that.

“But he has also come in and implemented a real professionalism throughout the club, and has clearly outlined the way he wants to play as a team and implemented that system.

“We’re a young side and have perhaps been a bit naive at times but also been unlucky.

We should have won many more games than we have and should be higher up the table than we are but things are looking good for the future.”

The future is something that Burgess clearly has in mind, with his career starting to take-off. And he is hoping that when he returns to Middlesbrough he will be able to impress new manager Aitor Karanka, who he admits he has yet to have the chance to speak to, and force his way into his first-team plans.

“I haven’t [been able to talk to Karanka],” said Burgess. “It’s been a busy time at Middlesbrough with the transition and football carries on.

“I’ve been focussing on my football at Hartlepool and my studies with my dissertation taking up a large part of my time, but I’m sure we’ll have a conversation sooner than later and I’ll look forward to that.”

“My ultimate aim now will be to break into the Middlesbrough team. I’m not looking any further than that.

“I’m at Hartlepool until the end of the season, and hopefully I’ll get a chance at Middlesbrough next pre-season to show what I can do and make a claim for a place in the gaffer’s plans.”

For now though, his full focus is on Hartlepool and helping them push up the table towards a play-off position.

“We’re hoping to pick as many points up as possible and climb up the table,”

Burgess said. “We still feel the playoffs are definitely within our reach.

“If we keep playing the way we have been and being that little bit more ruthless in front of goal then we’ve got every chance.”