IN the summer of 2015, Chuba Akpom joined Championship side Hull City on a season-long loan. At the end of his time at the KCOM Stadium, he was celebrating the Tigers’ promotion to the Premier League thanks to a play-off final win over Sheffield Wednesday.

In January 2017, Akpom joined Brighton for the second half of their season in the second tier. Come May, he had made ten appearances to help the Seagulls win automatic promotion to the top-flight.

Fast forward to 2020, and after a successful two-year spell in Greece with PAOK Salonika, Akpom finds himself back in the Championship after joining Middlesbrough in a £2.75m move.

His last two spells in the division have resulted in promotion, so as he prepares to make his Boro debut at QPR this afternoon, he is already targeting what would be an extremely notable hat-trick.

“It would be nice to be a bit of a lucky charm,” joked Akpom, whose loan spells in the Championship came when he was on the books of Arsenal. “I’ve been around winning teams in this division, so I feel as though I’ve seen what it takes to win.

“I know the type of team spirit that is needed, through good and bad times, and that can only help the boys. My experience can only help, so I’ve just got to play my part. Whether that’s me starting or coming off the bench, I’ve just got to affect the game and the group as much as possible.”

Had Akpom not moved to Middlesbrough earlier this month, he would have spent the last few days preparing for PAOK’s Champions League qualifier against FK Krasnodar next week, with the winners of the tie guaranteed a place in the competition’s group stage.

Salonika booked their place in the final qualifying round with a win over Portuguese giants Benfica, with Akpom having started up front, but the 24-year-old is quick to dismiss suggestions that he has taken a step down by joining Boro.

His experiences in the Championship have left him in no doubt as to the quality of the division he now finds himself playing in, not to mention the relentless competitiveness of a programme that has become even more intense as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Physically, playing in England is definitely more challenging, and technically, I think it’ll also be a step up from what I was playing in Greece,” said Akpom, whose goals helped PAOK win the double in his first season on the continent.

“It might be the Championship, but it’s definitely one of the toughest leagues in the world. One hundred per cent. I think any player would say the same, so it’ll definitely be a step up for me, but I’ve played in this league before and had success. It’s good to be back – I’m sure I’ll do fine.”

Prior to playing for Hull and Brighton, Akpom also had a brief spell at Nottingham Forest where he deputised for an injured Britt Assombalonga.

He never had the chance to play alongside his new team-mate at the City Ground, so while Ashley Fletcher has recovered sufficiently from a knock to take his place in the squad for today’s game at Loftus Road, Akpom is looking forward to forging a relationship with Boro’s record signing.

“Britt was injured when I was at Forest,” he said. “I was looking forward to playing alongside him, so thankfully I’ve got the opportunity to do that now. We’re two different types of players, but already in training I can see we’re forming a little bit of a combination. There’s Fletch to come back in too, and it’ll be good for all of us to build a connection and an understanding.”

Akpom is also looking forward to his first face-to-face meeting with Neil Warnock. The Boro boss remains in isolation as he continues to recover from Covid, but Akpom readily admits he was a major factor in his decision to choose Boro above the other English and European clubs that were in for him.

“I’ve watched him (Warnock) over the years, and everybody in the game knows what he’s about,” he said. “He’s not just a manager, he’s also a mentor for the players.”