CHUBA Akpom continues to stake his claim in the Middlesbrough side with manager Chris Wilder prepared to have him stay beyond the transfer window.

Having initially been told at the start of the summer he would not be involved in first-team training and to find a move elsewhere, Akpom was handed a surprise start in Boro’s season opening game against West Brom.

The 26-year-old frontman made a telling contribution for Boro’s opening goal providing the pass to lay on Isaiah Jones who has on hand to finish just ten minutes into the game. The result finished 1-1 at the Riverside Stadium.

Akpom partnered Duncan Watmore in attack but the pair lasted just over an hour in the game with their fitness waning during the early stages of the second half but Wilder was happy with what he saw from Akpom as he told the media after the game: “I thought he was excellent first half. He just ran out of gas.”

Elaborating on Watmore’s fitness concerns, the Boro boss continued: “Same as Duncan, after not completing much of pre-season. He missed most of the games and Duncan was the same because he has a slight issue at times that requires him to be pulled out of training.”

“We’ll always know with Duncan that that’s there and that’s how it is. He hasn’t completed 90 minutes for us in my time, although I do know I often change it around. Duncan understands that he’s got to score that chance.

“But I thought Chuba’s performance was really good. He won his headers, he linked up play really well and showed he’s an intelligent player. If he’s about then we’ll work with him.”

Boro are on the verge of completing a number of signings with Wilder revealing that a number of deals are ‘down the line’. It remains to be seen how much that will effect Akpom’s place in the team in the coming weeks with new forwards high on the clubs list of priorities.

Boro’s lack of options in attack has played into the hands of Akpom but Wilder’s willingness to integrate him back into the first-team squad speaks volumes of the work the former Arsenal frontman has done behind the scenes. Having initially been frozen out of the first-team picture, he was maintaining his fitness by training alone in his native London.

However, Akpom will need to build up his fitness as he looks to cement his place in the side as the Boro boss wants to see high energy performances from his side, something he bared witnessed too in their draw with West Brom at the weekend.

Wilder continued: "We played that way last year and we will be playing that way this year. It’s risk and reward, it’s exciting, it’s energetic. We want to get forward and create chances. We don’t want to just smack it down the middle for a big man and then chase it down after that."

Akpom's case for a place in the team may well be strengethened by Boro's willingness to let Josh Coburn go out on loan as Wilder revealed after the game they want to further his development with regular first-team football. 

Boro return to league action next weekend when they make the trip to Queens Park Rangers followed by an EFL Cup match against League One Barnsley.