Norwich City report card: Teemu Pukki. GOAT

Teemu Pukki guides home Norwich City's winner against Middlesbrough 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Teemu Pukki guides home Norwich City's winner against Middlesbrough Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Paul Chesterton

The man, the legend, the GOAT. Teemu Pukki's goals told only part of a spell-binding story for the decorated striker. Paddy Davitt tries to assess how the Finn took the Championship by storm, in the latest of our City report card series.

Teemu Pukki seals a hard-fought win at Blackburn 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus ImagesTeemu Pukki seals a hard-fought win at Blackburn Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Literally where do you start? Seriously. Teemu Pukki was the free transfer who turned into a million dollars for Norwich City.

The 30 goals, the work rate, the total lack of ego. A piece of recruitment that can surely never be surpassed.

Even if the Finnish international never scores another goal for the Canaries it would go down as a stunning piece of business. In a season where the squad and the team ethic was everything, Pukki's goals made the difference.

It is why Norwich can now prepare for life in the Premier League rather than reflect on incremental gains following a lacklustre mid-table finish to Daniel Farke's first tilt.

Strikers command the biggest fees and the most transfer interest because they invariably make the difference when all the other elements are right; unless you are plucked from Danish football and enticed to return to a part of the world where your reputation took a savaging at Celtic.

Be sure those same Bhoys' fans who labelled him a flop would crave the 29-year-old now. The word is out and Pukki's long list of personal awards is a testament to how high his stock has risen since.

There was even a flippant aside from Jack Grealish on the Wembley turf, in the aftermath of Aston Villa's play-off triumph on Monday, when the Villa captain was asked to assess whether team-mate John McGinn represented the bargain of the season.

McGinn emerged as a key figure but there is no-one in the Championship who proved as influential as Pukki.

To peer all the way back down the mountain from Pukki's lofty perch is to marvel at the signing of a player who to all intents and purposes appeared a useful back-up option for Jordan Rhodes.

Norwich pushed the boat out to entice Rhodes from Sheffield Wednesday because they felt they had a guaranteed, Championship-proven goalscorer. Pukki only really moved centre stage after a hammering against Leeds appeared to prompt a tweak and a tinker.

Straight after the first international break of the season, it was Pukki up top and Rhodes on the bench for the visit of highly-fancied Middlesbrough.

The Finn's impudent close-range finish proved the difference at Carrow Road.

There was another, unerring slot into the far corner, days later at Reading, and one more match-winning strike for good measure at the end of that week to sink QPR. Or rather a chest, or to paraphrase the then Rangers' boss, Steve McClaren, a 'lucky finish'. McClaren had clearly not received the memo.

The manner Pukki contorted his body, after Marco Stiepermann's cross reared up against Toni Leistner, was instinctive. This was no back-up striker, this was a frontman of the highest calibre.

That was the week that transformed Pukki's standing and in effect catapulted Norwich from an upwardly mobile squad into Championship standard bearers.

His telepathic understanding with Stiepermann triggered an unstoppable procession to the title, and beyond, the Premier League. Stiepermann joked later in the season there was no love lost between the duo when they featured for rival clubs in the Bundesliga, but there was a special kind of alchemy once Farke paired the duo together.

The use of space, the energy, the willingness to press, the ability to go short or long and bring others into play was a marked feature of Norwich's best attacking work. And more often than not, it was Pukki in the right place with the cold-eyed assassin's touch.

So many goals, so many key moments.

The breathless stoppage-time winner against Millwall that unleashed a roar around Carrow Road rarely heard in years.

Another late, late show to sink Bolton the following month.

The poacher's instinct to grind out a hard-fought win at Blackburn just before Christmas. Goals in the derby, vital interventions in gruelling away days at Millwall and Wigan.

When the dust settled and promotion was sealed against Blackburn,

Farke hailed Pukki's character before mentioning his goals. He called him the perfect role model for the younger team-mates, a humble, honest, hard-working professional who deserved all the plaudits.

City gave him a chance. But he repaid them handsomely.

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