Wild nights and career highs. Pukki’s City story in his own words
Teemu Pukki will go down as one of the best pieces of business ever by the Canaries, in any era. But things could have worked out very differently if the Finnish international had not backed his own judgment, as Paddy Davitt discovered.
Teemu Pukki has reflected on a ‘wild’ ride at Norwich City that saw him arrive as an unheralded free transfer in 2018 before plundering the goals that would catapult him to Premier League stardom.
Pukki notched 40 goals in 71 league appearances to fire the club to a Championship title and with it promotion to the big time.
His red hot scoring form in the opening weeks of the new Premier League campaign saw him bag a hat-trick against Newcastle – the first Norwich player to do so since Efan Ekoku in 1993 – and earn the league’s prestigious player of the month award.
There was also the small matter of a winner in an epic 3-2 home win against reigning champions Manchester City that brought worldwide attention.
Both City and Pukki have experienced the tougher side of top flight life thereafter, but the 30-year-old is proud of making it all the way to the Premier League.
“When the fixtures came out and I saw that our first match was an away game against Liverpool, I had a surreal feeling,” he said. “I couldn’t grasp that it would be my debut in the Premier League.
“I remember right before we walked to the pitch I was just talking with one of the lads. But it wasn’t that exciting, I thought it would be but we had such a relaxed feeling right before the kick-off.
“Then the game started and it was clear that Liverpool would win.
“But we decided that we wanted to survive with honour and our second half was much better. To get my first Premier League goal also helped me.
“The start of the season after that went okay. We played well against the other big teams.
“The Manchester City game is one of the matches that I will remember always.
“There was already a good feeling inside the stadium with promotion, but at that match the atmosphere was unbelievable.
“The crowd was going wild in that game. I scored a goal and also had an assist.”
Pukki, speaking on a podcast series entitled ‘The Pukki Party’, hosted by Finnish football journalist Panu Markkanen, admitted shining in the Premier League looked so far away when he first arrived in Norfolk.
“I think that at the start of my first season no-one believed a mid-table club could get promoted,” he said. “But people quickly noticed that there was a chance. It really went spot on for me and for the team.
“I went through a process of finding my place in the team; I was playing in the number 10 role. But the team couldn’t get the results we wanted, even though I still managed to score my first goals.
“That first international break was also important because I went away and scored against Greece and Hungary.
“Right after that the coach decided to test me as a striker. Goals came and the way the team played also seemed to click. A winning streak grew game after game and I scored many goals.
“The celebrations (for promotion) were really amazing, it was a great experience and an awesome memory for me for the rest of my life.”
Pukki was enticed to England by the persuasive powers of both Daniel Farke and Stuart Webber, after revealing he opted to snub interest from around Europe and a fresh deal on the table at previous club Brondby.
“We decided with my family that it was time to experience something new and there were all kinds of offers,” he said. “Offers from Greece and many places I could have ended up, but I didn’t. Then Norwich became an option.
“At first I was doubtful, but I had conversations with the manager and it became clear to me that there was a really big project going on and I thought that this could be a good place.
“We decided to visit and talk some more and when I was over here I decided I wanted to do this.
“Brondby was still a great place and the four years I spent there were great for me, so there was a potential alternative to stay. But my contract had ended and I thought things through for a long time.”
Pukki opened up on the podcast about how starting a family during his spell in Denmark has given him a new perspective on his football career.
That means he can put all the success he has had for club and country since a Norwich move into perspective.
“The importance of football in my life dropped a bit, because there was someone more important than football,” he said. “This changed the way I see football, from a relaxed viewpoint, and then I knew that I didn’t need to stress out so much about football, because there was something more important at home after matches.
“If something doesn’t go well, it doesn’t matter, because there is someone who smiles at you, plays with you and who doesn’t care how my games have gone. I am still a father to her.
“It is the best.”