In a surprising turn of events, former Middlesbrough boss Neil Warnock has applauded Anglo-Nigerian striker Chuba Akpom.
Warnock brought Akpom to Middlesbrough, but the veteran manager couldn’t get the best out of the forward during his time at the club. However, Warnock has hailed Michael Carrick for turning Akpom into the Championship’s most feared striker this season. Akpom has scored 24 goals and is the league’s top scorer.
Warnock admits he was surprised by Akpom’s remarkable goalscoring exploits this season. He says Carrick deserves immense credit for shifting the striker into the No.10 role – a move that has had remarkable results. He also says that some of Akpom’s finishing has been as good as any in the world.
Warnock acknowledges that he was disappointed with Akpom’s performances when he was in charge at Boro, but he’s pleased to see the striker showing what he’s capable of now. He also reveals that Steve Bruce had warned him that Akpom could sometimes frustrate managers.
What was said?
“I think you have to give Michael credit,” said Warnock, speaking exclusively to the Northern Echo’s You Are My Boro podcast.
“I am surprised, yeah. Chuba up-front didn’t work hard enough and didn’t do the right things for the team for me.
“But where Michael is playing him now is fantastic. Some of his finishing has been as good as any in the world, one or two of the goals.
“He’s a nice lad. He was alright for me. I was disappointed in his performances, but Michael has found that area for him, and you wouldn’t swap him for the world now.
“Steve Bruce told me the same when I asked Steve about him (before he signed for Boro). He said he’ll frustrate you at times Neil, and that’s how he was with me. Now it looks like he’s found where he wants to play; he’s found himself in a really good team that gives him the ball in the right areas. You couldn’t buy anyone like that now for the Championship.
“I don’t think anybody has scored 20 at Boro for many years and Chuba looks like he’ll get 30-odd.”
Akpom’s Peseiro snub
Warnock is not the only manager who has underrated Akpom recently, with the striker snubbed by Super Eagles head coach Jose Peseiro for Nigeria’s Afcon qualifiers in March.
The Eagles won one and lost the other in back-to-back games against Guinea-Bissau to amass nine points from four games in Group A.
Overall, Warnock’s comments highlight Akpom’s growth as a player under Carrick’s guidance and his impressive performances this season. It remains to be seen if Akpom will get another chance with the Super Eagles, but his form for Middlesbrough this season cannot be ignored.