Connor Southwell: It's time to acknowledge Pukki as a City great

He's not your archetypal front-man, but Teemu Pukki is most definitely a Norwich City great - Connor Southwell makes the case for the fabulous Finn

Connor Southwell

Connor Southwell | 16 Dec 2021, 06:57

Teemu Pukki is one of the best strikers Norwich City have had in their 119-year history. 

It is very rare in football to witness a legend in the flesh, slowly adding prestige to their standing at the club with every strike that kisses the back of the net

When discussing strikers, the general consensus is that any player who averages a goal every two games is prolific. Across four campaigns at the club, Pukki is still bettering that rate. 

His games per goal rate eclipses some of the best ever seen in yellow and green. At an average of 1.95 games per goal, Pukki falls behind Ralph Hunt’s record at City.

The Finn is rapidly climbing the table of City’s all-time scorers and sits just five behind Grant Holt with 24 games of the Premier League season to go. 

Pukki is now joint seventh on the leaderboard of the Canaries scoring charts. Holt is the next player to overtake. That looks like something which could happen by the end of the season if the Finn sustains his current goal-scoring level. 

Given the esteem Holt is held in by both supporters and the club, that speaks volumes of Pukki’s contribution since joining on a free transfer back in 2018. 

As the excellent Twitter account @NCFCnumbers tweeted after the Newcastle United draw on Tuesday, since City’s promotion in 2019 Norwich have scored 34 Premier League goals, Pukki has netted 16 of them. That is 46pc. 

There is undeniably a wider issue of over-reliance. If Pukki doesn’t score, then City look incapable of finding the net themselves. 

But it is rare that Pukki doesn’t deliver the goods. As Dean Smith aptly put it, if Norwich feed him, he will score. 

In many senses, there is a rarity about him. Unlike other frontmen, he isn’t physically commanding nor does he possess lightning speed. He isn’t a player who wants to run with the ball or take defenders on. 

But if you study Pukki’s movements on the pitch and analyse his game, what becomes crystal clear is how intelligent an operator he is off the ball. 

When you don’t have the physicality to compete with defenders or pace to move in-behind them, then you need to have something different about you. That speed of thought is impossible to defend against when completed successfully. 

For all the praise Emi Buendia received during the Championship title-winning triumph, his passes were only possible because of the quality of Pukki’s runs.

Reading the game and being capable of sniffing out a chance or locating space isn’t an easy thing to coach a player. For Pukki, it seems almost innate. He makes goal-scoring seem effortless. 

Strikers, like frontmen for bands, are expected to be the stars. The showmen. The players who enjoy the headlines. Pukki refuses to conform to that description. 

In fact, trying to get the Finn to speak glowingly about himself is almost an impossible task. 

After he netted his 50th City goal on his 100th appearance against Blackburn this time 12 months ago – he has scored 22 times since – he was merely deflecting the praise onto his colleagues rather than reflecting on his own personal achievement. 

There is a humility and likeability to Pukki. Irrespective of his achievements on the pitch, he keeps himself grounded and doesn’t do an enormous amount of self-promotion or speaking. 

He isn’t flashy or extravagant, maybe that is why admirers from afar haven’t solidified their interest in him.

Behind the player is a devoted family man who is popular but often quiet in the dressing room. 

As former City boss Daniel Farke used to say at regular intervals, Pukki is a superstar in his homeland. He is a superstar in Norfolk as well. 

But you wouldn’t think it. There is no ego or facade. He is somebody who cherishes playing football and is extracting everything out of a career which has taken him to Denmark, Scotland, Spain, Germany and now Carrow Road. 

Make no mistake, any prospects of Premier League survival depend on City keeping him fit and ensuring there is a consistent supply line in place to serve him with the chances required. 

His sumptuous volley against Newcastle displayed how devastating of a finisher he is. 

There may be question marks over whether certain members of Smith’s squad are of the standard but not Pukki. 

Pukki is a Premier League footballer. In a side struggling to create chances and score goals, he has netted on five occasions. That is more than Cristiano Ronaldo has managed since his return to Manchester United. More than Romelu Lukaku who cost Chelsea £97.5m in the summer.

He has done that in a team that has scored eight goals this season. It’s an incredible achievement. 

The Finn is the Canaries’ fourth highest scorer in the Premier League behind Mark Robins, Grant Holt and Chris Sutton. 

What Pukki is producing on the pitch at present will be the subject of conversation for generations to come. This is a living legend at the top of the game. He will continue to break records – hopefully they align with a season where City can secure top-flight safety. 

When all is said and done, Pukki will rank among the very best goalscorers Norwich have ever had. And his race isn’t run just yet.