'I've really enjoyed being here in Norwich and the team we have is really special' - Teemu Pukki
PUBLISHED: 09:46 08 March 2019 | UPDATED: 10:13 08 March 2019
Teemu Pukki is without doubt the free transfer bargain of the season.
A running total of 24 Championship goals has helped take Norwich to the top of the table.
But the Finn arrived in one of the quietest fanfares of all – slipping in almost unnoticed at The Walks, for a pre-season friendly against King’s Lynn Town. The reason was, perhaps, an underwhelming spell at Celtic – and previously Sevilla and Schalke – which suggested the description ’free transfer’ would live up to its reputation.
How times have changed – from small beginnings, the Premier League now beckons for Pukki, who joined City from Brondby.
“I’m much more experienced than when I was at Sevilla, Schalke or Celtic,” Pukki said in an interview with Sky Sports ahead of Friday night’s home game against Swansea. “Those years in Denmark changed my game and how I played football.
“The last two years in particular were really good. I got a lot of goals and my self-confidence back after some harder times, then here at Norwich I felt like I was at home from the first moment. The games started to go well from the beginning and I’ve just kept going.
“I’ve really enjoyed being here in Norwich and the team we have is really special. English football is so massive and I’m really looking forward to these last 11 games.”
Pukki’s time at Celtic in 2013/14 season saw him win a Scottish Premiership title, but just nine goals in 37 games prompted his switch to Brondby. However, the 28-year-old values his time in Glasgow.
“I think we can say it wasn’t the success we were hoping for and it was a hard time for me personally,” he said. “I started well and got a couple of goals, but then it didn’t go so well and it’s hard to say why.
“The one year I had there was a really good experience for me. I have good memories and it made me a better player. I got used to the physical play in Scotland and it taught me about some stuff for sure.
“I’m happy even though it didn’t go so well and I guess it wasn’t meant to be. Then I got the transfer I needed to Denmark.”
Pukki admits it wasn’t just a lack of experience that held him back earlier in his career. The striker knows he didn’t work as hard as he probably should have done when he was first breaking through, but his influential coach at Brondby, Alexander Zorniger, changed all that.
“I’m more grown up for sure and probably more professional than I was,” he said. “Also the coach at Brondby changed the way I think about football, my work ethic and things like that.
“I was probably a bit lazy. I was not doing the defensive work I should have done, and that’s one thing [Zorniger] taught me. When I do defensive work well it always helps my offensive game. That’s been a big change for me.
“Being a father has changed me as well. Football is not the biggest thing anymore, there’s something more important in my life.
“If I have a bad game I go home and see my daughter and I don’t think about the bad game anymore. My family help me do what I do on the pitch, and my fiancee helps a lot so I can rest at home and be as focused as I can.”
Focus on Friday night in Swansea, and the opportunity to move five points clear of Leeds in second.
“Of course that’s our dream but we are still realistic and know there are 11 games to go,” said Pukki. “There is no need to over-think it and think we are already there, because we aren’t yet.
“It would be the biggest achievement in my career and I hope and believe I can do it. But there is still a lot of work to do.”