By today’s standards, Teemu Pukki’s arrival in Norfolk was given the lightest of light touches by the club’s social media team. Like the man himself, it was understated and modest.
In 2023, even something as nondescript as an Isaac Hayden arriving on loan is met with a series of teasers building up to a massive, pyro-laden Hollywood-style crescendo. Close-ups, moody lighting, sullen looks to camera, badge-pointing etc.
But, intentional or otherwise, Pukki’s soft launch served to mute our expectations of someone who was, after all, a full international.
We hoped, of course, that he would be the answer to our prayers but were told in no uncertain terms – mainly by Celtic fans – that he would be anything but. And I guess, to a degree, we believed them.
Humble beginnings indeed.
While he has, to us, become the ultimate number 9 (albeit clad in a 22), let’s not forget that he began life in a City shirt as something akin to a number 10, playing just behind the then-preferred out-and-out striker, Jordan Rhodes.
For the first six games of the 2018-19 season, and for most of that preseason, Rhodes was handed the ‘goalscorer’ stripes and Pukki was merely part of a supporting cast that included, among others, Emi Buendia, Marco Stiepermann, Mo Leitner and Onel Hernandez.
But after a lukewarm start to that campaign of one win in the opening six, it was in game seven that Daniel Farke chose to give Pukki the lone striker gig, with Rhodes – who had scored two goals to Pukki’s three – being relegated to a place on the bench.
The opposition that day was Middlesbrough. The rest, as they say, is history.
Teemu scored the only goal in a 1-0 win and, with him as the team’s focal point, they went on the run of dreams.
In the 39 games that followed, 25 were won, 11 were drawn and just three were lost. Pukki added another 26 goals to the three he had already bagged and a Norwich City legend was born.
He developed an almost telepathic understanding with most of those tasked with providing him with ammunition but, most notably, Stiepermann and Buendia. And he understood perfectly Farkeball and his role within it.
He was, quite simply, sensational that season and provided us with memories that will last a lifetime – none better than that shanked injury-time winner against Millwall – but if asked to describe the qualities that made him so lethal, he was far removed from the traditional number 9.
Not especially quick, not particularly good in the air, the ball didn’t stick too well when he had his back to goal, and he certainly wasn’t strong enough to outmuscle the average brute of a Championship centre-back.
But, luckily for us, he had many other more subtle qualities.
He was smart, his movement was sharp and decisive, he knew how to play on the shoulder of the brutes, he was two-footed, and had that priceless quality of being the calmest person in the stadium when a goalscoring chance presented itself.
Mere mortals tense up when the goal beckons. Not Pukki. He does the opposite – a gift only enjoyed by goalscoring greats
That he then went on to hit double figures in our two Premier League campaigns was, arguably, a finer achievement than the 29 he hit in 2018-19 and the 26 he followed it up with in the behind-closed-doors Championship triumph of 2020-21.
To have scored 11 apiece in two of the most hapless seasons in Premier League history was, looking back, quite extraordinary – especially as both teams were notable for their lack of guile and creativity, and inability to create goalscoring chances.
Twenty-two top-flight goals in those circumstances were the mark of a craftsman.
It was therefore incredulous that, despite Pukki’s agent making noises around a summer 2022 departure from Carrow Road, he was persuaded by Dean Smith and Stuart Webber to give us one more season. A decision he almost certainly regrets.
But it’s a mark of the man and the loyalty he has shown to Norwich City that publicly he made not a murmur and instead got his head down and did his best to get this club into the promotion picture.
That it didn’t have the happy ending that the Finn deserved is no reflection of his personal contribution to season 2022-23. While his powers made have waned slightly, with a plentiful supply of chances I’d have still backed him to again hit the 20-goal mark.
But that plentiful supply never materialised. For most of the season, he’s cut a lone, forlorn, frustrated figure who has felt the same pain that we all have. As things turned soured at the Hawthorns in the aftermath of last Saturday’s catastrophe, the hurt was etched on his face.
He deserved a better finale than this.
But nothing can detract from his outstanding contribution to the history of our football club. A class performer, a goalscorer of immense quality, and now the fourth-highest goalscorer in our club’s history (88 goals), bettered only by three greats – Johnny Gavin, Terry Allcock, and Iwan Roberts.
Pukki was, as my dad would put it, ‘Norwichy‘. No airs and graces, humble, unassuming, and, as Daniel Farke once put it, with a look that suggested he washed in his morning cornflakes.
But we loved that about him and, for personal reasons, I too loved the fact he embraced his retreating hairline rather than take the alternative, Wayne Rooney route.
Teemu always kept it real and proved himself to be not only a brilliant footballer but also a thoroughly decent human being.
Next Monday promises to be a difficult day for obvious reasons, but let’s hope that amid it all a true Norwich City legend is given the send-off that he so deserves.
Kiitos Teemu. It’s been wonderful.
martin penney says
Probably one of the most self-effacing footballers I have ever had the privilege to watch – he even expressed his frustration in measured, laid-back terms that can’t be coached. It must be in his genes.
I’m sure the crowd will do what is right on Monday and give Teemu Pukki the send-off he deserves and remember, as you say, that it’s not his fault it’s all gone pear-shaped this campaign.
Kiitos indeed Teemu.
***And Kiitos also to MFW commenter *1×2.*
If you are reading this, a personal thanks from myself for providing MFW with insight on football and other sport in Finland – and music, too!
Although Teemu has now left us, never feel afraid to drop in and make a comment!
Martin, its been a great pleasure to chat with you! Learning about different cultures its of course always one of the most interesting things to learn. As you can see we are not that different, or lets say that im not that different to you because we found so many similar interests between. It proved again that no matter where someone is born they can have quite a lot of the same interests in their life and you kind of feel that hey I have known that person for a long time. I will comment something after that Blackpool game and sometimes later just to know what is going on in Norwich fc and to chat.
I know that you like Pink Floyd, check in youtube Nightwiss live tribute to Pink Floyd when you have time, the song is High hopes. The bass player sings it.
Oh, and Arsenal…..the fan inside me has been coming back again! Rob Holding is the reason for everything possible!
Gary Gowers says
Can I join Martin in thanking you for your contribution to MFW during the Pukki years, 1×2. Always interesting to get an alternative take on things, and you’ve provided us with plenty of inside info. Much appreciated.
Also as Martin says, please feel free to drop by even when the Pukki era is officially over.
Thanks Gary, its been a pleasure! Norwich have got plenty of new fans from Finland, for sure at least some will stay as Norwich fans. Maybe there will be another finnish player playing some day again, hope so!
Both you and Martin are doing a great job with your articles, keep it up guys!
Keith B says
“…fourth-highest goalscorer in our club’s history (88 goals), bettered only by three greats – Johnny Gavin, Terry Allcock, and Iwan Roberts”
… and none of those 3 played a single game for us in the top division, with Gavin’s goals coming in Div 3 south (although he did manage 15 in 32 games for Spurs in the top division).
He is, as you say, a full international; were he English, French, German, Belgian, Italian or Spanish he wouldn’t be. Having to play virtually every game for Finland has in my view hastened his reduction in sharpness, especially with them qualifying for the Euros in 2021.
It will be interesting to see where he goes next. One of the Scandinavian Champions League or UEFA Cup regulars perhaps?
Andy L says
Up there with the very greatest of the NCFC great for me. And I’ve been saddened to see him cut such a forlorn figure this season. He deserved better.
All the best Teemu.
You’ve given me (well you and Emi, Marco, Mario, Onel etc) some of my happiest football memories ever.
We will certainly miss you. Let’s hope we can unearth another like you or god knows where we will end up!
All good things come to an end and so many legends didn’t have the chance to finish their career at Carrow Rd with, hopefully, a full house to say goodbye.
Will the supporters give it a big farewell, then immediately turn on our present owners and unsporting director? I hope not, it would ruin a day that Pukki and his family will want to remember.
Will Mark Attanasio and his entourage turn up for the final game and could we see a changing of the guard at the last game?
Not sure what Pukki’s record is against Blackpool but I hope he can go out on a scoring spree.
Three ex-City players will possibly be in the Blackpool squad and two of Pukki’s mates, James Husband and Tommy Trybull, and I hope they also get a great reception for the crowd, especially TT who had no chance to say his own farewells.
Tim Ball says
I couldn’t agree more Alex.
The fans have every right to have a go at Delia and Stuart Webber but I implore them to leave all that until next season. Whatever happens on Monday will be forgotten quickly anyway as thoughts turn to summer.
It would spoil Teemu’s big day. And let’s not forget it is almost certainly Max Aarons last game for us as well.
Tim Krull may also be waving goodbye.
So whatever the performance, it is totally irrelevant, give those boys who have given us so many fantastic moments a really proper Norwich send off.
There will always be the ones that want to make it all about them.
I have never been a Delia supporter in her 26 years at the helm but would spoil a day for those who might be playing their last game for the club. But it’s also a time to say thanks to every player whether he’s had a good or bad season, he’s turned out for City -so let’s just give the team a rousing send off and hope for a better season in 2023/24.
MYSTIC KEV says
Wish pukki all the best for the future he deserves it but I won’t be bothering to turn up to clap the dross that claim to be his team mates it just isn’t worth it . Thanks for the memory’s teemu that’s all I’ve got now .
Gordon Eagling says
What more can be said about the man, up there with the greats that have worn the shirt.
upeasti loistavaa erinomainen .. jäähyväiset ja kiitos, Toivon sinulle onnea ja menestystä…
We will miss Super-Teemu’s presence, not only in goals but as a person. He’s been with us to see the same successes and failures, and I’m sure the latter galls him as it does the rest of us.
Thanks Teemu Pukki, good luck for the future, football and beyond!
Tim Ball says
Great tribute Gary to a true Canary Legend.
I was at that Middlesborough game Gary and not too happy to see Rhodes on the bench. Shows what I know😂
What a player he has been for us, absolutely incredible. When a friend asked him after after that stellar first season if he would look elsewhere he said if Norwich sold him that was up to them but that he was so grateful at the chance that we had given him he wouldn’t go looking for a move. He has been absolutely true to his word.
So many goals that it is hard to pick one as his best. He was in many ways the Aguero of the Championship but in addition he was extremely capable in the Premier League as well as he showed with 22 goals in two abysmal seasons for the team itself.
To say he will be missed is an understatement, even this season when some are saying he has lost a bit of form he is top in the team with goals and assists together, 17, only Sara and Sarge get into double figures and the next two with 8 & 7 are Dowell and Hernandez.
So even on this seasons output he will take some replacing.
And I think it is worth remembering what happened after we lost Iwan Roberts. His replacement was the ill-fated Dean Ashton (would have been England centre forward for years but for that dreadful injury) who as we got relegated after just one season in the EPL back in 2005 we had to sell him, then we signed Robert Earnshaw who did very well for us but the board sold him and relegation to League One swiftly followed.
I really think that we are now seeing the end of the Daniel Farke team, or era if you like and wow does that sadden me. The football was exhilarating, even in the heyday of 1988-1993 I can’t remember games that were like under Farke when sometimes it was purely our attack against some poor hapless souls trying to defend and failing.
And who was at the spearhead of that, Teemu himself.
So thank for everything Teemu, best of luck wherever you go next, USA? Finland?
I was trying to find Teemus interview which was made by Yle swedish. Yes, its written in swedish but Finland is a bilingual country. There he admits his unprofessional habits and attitude, this has not been the case in Norwich and Brondby but everywhere else before. About Celtic he thought that the level of football Celtic plays would be too easy for him, but they had a place in the champions league group stages which was a reason for his transfer there.
Teemu was heartbroken when Norwich didnt let him leave before this season. Things like that always affect and its never wise decisions to keep a player no matter what. In that perspective its not surprising that the Norwich season was not the Norwich board expected to be. A key player should never be someone who wants to leave. Im surprised how well Teemu still did this season and kept his emotions away about it. 1 thing, he would have left no matter Norwich would have gotten promotion this season. This guy makes his own decisions and keeps his head. I found it a little bit strange that Norwich wanted to pronounce his leaving so early before the season ends. Its sure that Teemu didnt want that.
Its really nice that Norwich and Norwich fans are making this tribute to him. He surely helped the club get to a higher level and chance to play against absolute top clubs of the world.
People seem to be discussing and trying to guess where he plays next? Teemus next clubs have always been impossible to guess. His career is far from over, he is determined to play as high as possible. Logic says that his first option is playing the highest level as possible, his second option is the money option and that would mean playing outside Europe. Qatar, Saudi Arabia, China, Japan….I hope its option nr 1, because he deserves it and can make that transfer to those leagues later.
Tim Ball says
As things have turned out, you were correct and I was wrong, Teemu should have left at the end of last season.
I disagreed with you on here as I felt Teemu was vital for another promotion push this season. I still think that but for his own career it would have been better had he been allowed to go.
It has got me thinking and I wonder that if Teemu was not such an honourable guy and he had forced a move away from here straight after the first relegation from the EPL whether it would have been better for him career wise? We shall never know.
The truth is I thought we were good for 1st or 2nd this season, even as pessimistic as I usually am I never thought we would be out of the playoffs as well.
The truth is the last two seasons of recruitment have been even worse than I thought. Crikey now I feel really sorry for Farke as well.
And I feel very sorry for Teemu that it has ended this way.
I would love to see him get a couple on Monday just to see him get to 90 goals for the club.
I can easily understand the Norwich perspective to keep Teemu no matter what. Your club only forgot that he is human and humans have feelings and emotions which can affect them. Norwich simply refused to sell him. Lets imagine that Norwich would have sold him. I kind of believe that your season would have been even worse than it was. If Teemu would have played very well somewhere else this season, Norwich fans would have protested even way harder against the club.
About Farke. His success was very much based on Pukki and Buendia and their chemistry together. He played Teemu in the wrong position first and kept Emi on the bench. Its quite a lot easier to build up basic tactics when you have something very effective already.
Your managers have changed and so have playing styles and tactics. Your playing has looked like a mess now more than a season. There is an obvious lack of quality. I honestly could not answer who should be your best player and who to build up next season?
Go out on a hat-trick please. One last hurrah!
Thank you TP for so many moments, a pure joy, loved having you wear the yellow and green with such unassuming distinction, one of our best Hall of Famers. True class.