Michael Bailey: Norwich City records and feeling at home - a Teemu Pukki appreciation piece
PUBLISHED: 06:06 12 February 2019 | UPDATED: 09:36 12 February 2019
The bargain of the season, a man who brought a party with him to Carrow Road to rival Alex Tettey and the Finn firing Norwich City to new Championship heights - MICHAEL BAILEY hails the magic of Teemu Pukki.
The slow motion was a thing of beauty, as Emi Buendia threaded the ball through and Teemu Pukki slid in to slot home. An East Anglian derby brace completed.
And with that, the Finnish striker’s place in Norwich City hearts sat that little deeper.
It’s fair to say the 28-year-old is playing in a brilliant team. Pukki himself made the point that those around him were making his job a whole lot easier.
By the same token, Jordan Rhodes’ starting stint while Pukki was injured earlier in the season also came with City wins and striker goals to back the point.
But in this season of incredible turnaround and confounded expectation, there is still so much room to revel in the free transfer that has lit up Carrow Road and delivered moments that will go down in folklore, however the rest of this 2018-19 campaign wraps up.
Let’s bring in the numbers – like this care of NCFC numbers on Twitter: The fastest Norwich City players to reach 20 league goals in a season in the last 50 years?
Teemu Pukki has taken just 28 games, then follows Chris Sutton (1993-94 – 29), Ted MacDougall (1975-76 – 31), Grant Holt (2009-10 – 32) and Kevin Drinkell (1985-86 – 35) close behind.
Pukki sits third in the Championship this season for goals scored (20), tied 20th for assists (5), well outside the top 100 most dispossessed players and not much worse in terms of poor touches per game. He actually has more goals than anyone else from open play in the Championship (19), while 16 of his tally have come in the second half – as if to fully buy into City’s own trends this term under Daniel Farke.
Pukki’s unerring accuracy and deceitful efficiency have been potently disarming for the rest of the second tier. He is still some seven games below his appearance tally for Celtic, yet he already has more than twice as many goals.
Indeed, when you start to factor in how many top-flights Pukki has played, the European games he has featured in, you also start to twig just how astute his arrival in the summer really was for Norwich City.
And perhaps the best bit? He feels right at home in his new surroundings.
“I feel really good,” said the man himself following Sunday’s stirring derby success. “Since the beginning my family are loving the stay here and it already feels like home, for sure.
“It was a great four years in Denmark (at Brondby) and I needed something else. This is the perfect place for me now I think, and I’m enjoying it a lot.”
There is still a third of this remarkable campaign to go.
A quick look at the City history books says since 1975, City’s best performing second-tier striker seasons have all topped at 23 goals: Holt (2010-11), Iwan Roberts (1998-99) and Drinkell (1985-86). Pukki should have the beating of them all – and may possibly set his sights even higher. Certainly his knowledge at secured the most successful goalscoring season in England for a Finnish striker, was one reason his smile was so broad at full time on Sunday.
In all honesty, how the rest of this season flows will still partially define Pukki’s season.
“Of course there is that determination (to finish the job),” he admitted. “That’s the big dream, to go up. We just need to focus every week, all the time in training and the games – there are still 15 to go and there is still so much that can happen.
“So we can’t start over-thinking or thinking about the end of the season. Obviously it is something we dream about – but we have to work for it.
“I think both teams coming up – Preston and Bolton – we had tough games against them at home. Neither game was easy and now we’ve got to play them away.
“There are no easy games in this league. You see it all the time. So we need to focus until the end, and now we travel up to Preston and Bolton – and just have to keep doing what we’re doing.
“We can’t go there arrogant. We need to focus like we are doing and I believe we can do it.”
That Pukki cuts such a relaxed figure, one you imagine arrogant thoughts simply bounce off, bodes extremely well for Norwich.
His record of playing for clubs with big expectations is a subtle and useful ingredient in a mix that includes so much relative inexperience.
And at the moment, it’s hard to imagine anyone else you would rather see lead this phenomenal Norwich City forward line.
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