JOSH Coburn has lifted the lid on the summer dedication of Chuba Akpom as the striker laid the foundations for his incredible record-breaking season at Middlesbrough.

Coburn and Akpom were both injured and going through rehab together at the start of the season and the young striker says the ex-Arsenal man left no stone unturned in his bid to return better than ever and make the most of his surprise Boro chance.

Akpom looked destined for the Boro exit door in the summer after two unsuccessful seasons at the club, but he was handed a surprise chance by former boss Chris Wilder.

The 27-year-old was sidelined for six weeks just four games into the campaign but was determined to hit the ground running on his return and has been a revelation under Michael Carrick - hitting 28 goals so far and storming to the Championship's golden boot award, which will be confirmed after next Monday's final game of the regular season against Coventry.

Coburn says Boro's players always knew what Akpom was capable of, but admits nobody could have predicted his incredible campaign in front of goal.

"I trained with him when Warnock was here, when he wasn't going out on loan and he was so sharp in training," says Coburn, who has impressed out on loan at Bristol Rovers this season.

"I think all the players knew what a good player he was and it just wasn't clicking for him. I think the style of play, Warnock compared to Carrick's is different, and now it's just clicked for Chuba.

"We were actually injured at the same time at the start of this season. We did our rehab together and he worked so hard to try and get back as quickly as possible. He was in the gym every day. I knew he was going to have a good season.

"Obviously I didn't expect him to have this good of a season, but he's a top, top player and hopefully he gets over the 30 goals mark."


Coburn will return at Boro in the summer hoping to play his way into Carrick's first team plans, and the 20-year-old striker admits he's been boosted from afar by the head coach's willingness to give young players a chance.

Hayden Hackney has established himself as a star man for Boro, while Carrick has also handed first team debuts to Pharrell Willis and Sonny Finch.

Coburn said: "Hayden has been been great, hasn't he. He's played pretty much every game under Carrick.

"He was in and around it and just needed that chance. Leo gave him that chance. I knew how good of a player he is because I've come up through the age groups with him and we're really close.

"He's been amazing and for the gaffer to give him the opportunity, it just shows how good of a manager he is.

"He's playing younger lads and it helps the academy so much when they know the manager is going to give young players the chance.

"It gives you a massive boost. Pharrell has had his chance as well.

"When you're playing for the Under-21s and you're doing well and even when you're training with the first team, you feel like you'll get that chance if you do train well. Obviously Sonny as well.

"They've had their chance and it gives you massive motivation to keep going and to keep training as well as you can. If you train well, you'll get your chance."