England U19s and Arsenal striker Chuba Akpom keen for constant progress with both teams
England U19s v Denmark U19s
U19 International Match
7.30pm, Tuesday 5 February 2013
The Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster Rovers FC
Call 01302 762576 for tickets
By Nicholas Veevers
Chuba Akpom is aiming for a summer of football as England U19s target qualification for the European Championship Finals.
The Arsenal striker will line-up against Denmark on Tuesday in the penultimate match before the Young Lions face Elite Round Qualifiers in May.
With Belgium, Scotland and Georgia fighting England for the one qualifying spot available, it will be a tough task for Noel Blake’s squad.
But Akpom admits he is up for the challenge and wants to get into the full swing of things against the Danes at the Keepmoat Stadium.
He told TheFA.com: “I’m really excited about the qualifiers. That’s why we play these friendlies, to try and impress and get into the squads.
“There are a lot of good players fighting to go, so hopefully I can play well enough to get into the squad.”
The 17-year-old has scored three goals in his three U19s appearances so far and also had a good scoring record with the U17s previously.
And it’s the high competition level on the international stage which Akpom enjoys, regularly testing himself against the best of other nations.
He added: “There is a big difference between domestic and international football.
“When you play with England, it’s all the best players available and it’s tougher.
“There’s more competition and when you play against other countries, you’re playing against their best as well.
“So it puts you up against your own standards, to see how good you are. I think it’s a really good competition.”
All of Akpom’s appearances for the U19s this season have been abroad, starting in Germany last September and then in Estonia for the First Qualifying Round of the Euros.
So with a sizeable crowd expected for Tuesday’s game in South Yorkshire, Akpom is keen to run out on home turf for a change.
“I’m looking forward to it, I’ve heard there’s going to be a large crowd there and it’s good to be playing with the U19s,” he admitted.
“It’s a good squad we’ve got here and there’s a couple of first team players, with their experience helping us out.
“And that makes the team stronger and more experienced to hopefully give us a cutting edge to win.”
The north Londoner has also been making considerable progress at the Emirates Stadium.
He only signed his first professional contract last October and has already been named as a substitute for the Gunners, for their Champions League game with Olympiakos in December.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has spoken highly of Akpom's potential and he’s a reserve team regular for the Gunners too.
But Akpom himself is wisely focused on improvement, having seen that opportunities with Arsenal are always open to young players should they make the right impression.
He said: “I’m progressing well and for a first year, I’m playing for the reserves regularly. I didn’t expect that, so it’s a good thing.
“I just want to keep on pushing and keep on pushing and hopefully I can get on the first team bench more times next season.”
Firstly though, he’s got Doncaster and the Danes in his sights.