LONDON, United Kingdom, Aug 19 – Finnish international striker Teemu Pukki stole the headlines from more established strikers at the weekend by scoring a hat-trick for Premier League new boys Norwich — the first Canaries player to do so at the top level since Efan Ekoku hit four goals against Everton in September 1993.
Pukki’s triple strike secured a 3-1 win over Newcastle to give the newly promoted side their first points of the new season. He had also scored in the 4-1 defeat to Liverpool on the opening day.
AFP Sport picks out three things on the Finn, who after several false starts in other European leagues appears to have found his groove at the age of 29.
‘Goat’ who became Canaries favourite
Signed on a free transfer from Danish side Brondby in 2018, Pukki scored 29 goals for the Canaries as they gained automatic promotion to the Premier League last season.
Norwich sporting director Stuart Webber had been a fan of his for a while, even considering signing him for Wolverhampton Wanderers six years ago. Despite his success, Pukki is renowned for being down to earth. “There is too much money in football nowadays, with all the transfer fees going higher and higher. I cost nothing, so I think it was quite good business for Norwich,” he told The Daily Telegraph this month.
His surname means “goat” in Finnish and many Norwich fans believe he is on the way to becoming the club’s ‘GOAT’ (Greatest Of All Time). Norwich fans have so taken him to their hearts they have created a song about him to the tune of Human League’s 1981 number one “Don’t You Want Me”: “Teemu Pukki baby, Teemu Pukki ohhh”.
The Quiet Boy
Pukki does not hide when he is on the pitch but off it he prefers a quiet family life with his two-year-old daughter Olivia and wife Kirsikka. Indeed his shyness was, according to Neil Lennon, his manager at Celtic, a reason for his failing to sparkle there, scoring just seven goals in 26 appearances in the 2013-2014 season. “He is a quiet boy. He had a few injury problems as well and at a club like Celtic, when you’re brought in for money, you have to score goals,” said Lennon. Pukki denies that his time at Celtic was a bad experience,saying it was a catalyst for his improvement as he moved first to Brondby and then Norwich.
He says being withdrawn is a national trait. “A lot of Finnish people are laid-back and quiet and that’s how I am. I’ve never seen any reason to change myself. If I see someone that’s too arrogant, that’s not how I was raised,” he said.
No teenage kicks at Sevilla
His potential was spotted aged just 18 when Spanish side Sevilla came calling and lured him away from Finnish outfit KTP. It was perhaps a strange move for the inherently shy boy to take but he was accompanied by his mother. However, he failed to acclimatise, making just one appearance for the senior team before returning to Finland and HJK in 2010. “My mum (Teija) took one year off from work to come and live with me. That was really helpful but I was still struggling with the language,” he told the Telegraph. “As a young guy I was really shy, more shy than I am now. To live abroad you have to grow up quickly.”