Pukki playing best football of career says former City loan star Johansson

PUBLISHED: 06:00 07 February 2019

Teemu Pukki rides a challenge from Leeds' Liam Cooper during Saturday's memorable 3-1 win at Elland Road Picture: PAUL CHESTERTON/FOCUS IMAGES

Teemu Pukki rides a challenge from Leeds' Liam Cooper during Saturday's memorable 3-1 win at Elland Road Picture: PAUL CHESTERTON/FOCUS IMAGES

Paul Chesterton

Teemu Pukki is playing the best football of his career for Norwich City - that's the expert opinion of former Canaries loan player and fellow Finn Jonatan Johansson.

Jonatan Johansson is delighted to see his fellow Finn Teemu Pukki doing so well at Carrow Road Picture: PAJonatan Johansson is delighted to see his fellow Finn Teemu Pukki doing so well at Carrow Road Picture: PA

Now manager at Scottish Championship outfit Greenock Morton, Johansson has been following the progress of his fellow countryman with interest this season, and has been hugely impressed by what he has seen.

A man well qualified to talk about City’s top scorer, having both played alongside him and coached him in the national team, he says his success since his summer move from Brondby in Denmark has been down to two vital ingredients - ability and plenty hard work.

“Teemu was always a talented boy and a great kid and earned a move to Seville in Spain when he was very young,” said Johansson.

“He then went to Scotland with Celtic and although he had some good moments there it wasn’t easy for him. But when he moved to Denmark I think his confidence rose. He scored more goals and also his fitness and body shape changed, which was down to a lot of hard work. Norwich are getting the benefit of that now because the Championship is a really physical league and Teemu has no problem coping with it.

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“Now I think he is playing the best football of his career and I am really glad it is at Norwich City because me and my wife have a lot of happy memories of our stay in Norfolk.”

As a former striker himself Johansson always relished working with Pukki - and is now enjoying what he sees when watching the Canaries on the television up in Scotland.

“He is scoring lots of goals and that has a lot to do with his movement in and around the box, which is first class,” he said. “When the ball is played into the box he is always making those small runs to try and get on the end of it. He is a difficult player to mark because he is always on the move, always thinking about where the ball might go. What you will also see with Teemu is that he always works really hard for the team, even when things are not going well.”

Johansson is now hoping Pukki’s goals will fire Norwich into the top flight.

“When I was playing there were quite a few Finnish players doing well in the Premier League - and hopefully there will be one there next season!” he said.

A debut to remember...

Jonatan Johansson will always remember his full debut for Norwich City - even though it didn’t have the happy ended he would have wished for.

Fresh from joining the Canaries on an extended loan deal, the Finnish frontman fired the Canaries in front 33 minutes in to their derby clash with Ipswich Town at Carrow Road on February 5, 2006.

It was a magic moment for a man who hadn’t been getting regular football in the top flight with Charlton Athletic but the joy was soured as Town quickly equalised before grabbing a controversial late winner when Danny Haynes’ blatant handball went unpunished.

It was a mixed afternoon for a man who went on to score three times in 12 appearances for Nigel Worthington’s side - but the good always outweighs the bad when he reflects on his brief spell with Norwich City.

“I wasn’t getting a game at Charlton and my good friend Mathias Svensson, who had been there the year before, recommended the club to me,” he said.

“I really enjoyed my time there even though I think I could have done a little bit better - it was a nice club, the fans were great and I also had some very good team-mates.”

Johansson still has clear memories of his first Norwich goal, what it meant to the supporters and how he nearly made it a dream day for them.

“I spotted a space between the centre halves, Youssef Safri played a good ball from midfield and I ran through and chipped the ball over the keeper,” he recalled. “It was my first full game and it made it 1-0 so it was a special moment.

“They equalised quite quickly but later in the game a ball came over, I got my leg to it and hit the post so it could have been a very different story. Then they scored a controversial goal and ended up winning 2-1. I think we were the better side on the day so obviously it was a very disappointing result.

“I can still remember how big a game it was, how much it meant to our fans.”

City went on to finish ninth that season - and Johansson says the class of 2018-19 is well equipped to do a lot better than that.

“They have been excellent this season,” he said. “In the games I have seen they have been really positive. They play with pace and power and are really good to watch. Their recruitment and profiling of players has also been really good. They seem to have brought the right people in to play the sort of football the coach wants to see.”

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