There was relatively little fanfare surrounding Teemu Pukki in the summer when he arrived at Norwich on a free transfer.
Despite a career path that had already taken him to Sevilla, Schalke and Celtic by the age of 23, underwhelming stints at all three clubs meant that expectations were limited for what he could achieve at Carrow Road.
Not anymore. Now 28, Pukki is leading the way in the race for the Golden Boot in the Sky Bet Championship, netting 24 goals so far to fire Norwich to the top of the table with 11 games to left to play.
After four years at Brondby, Pukki could be a Premier League marksman next season. But where does he think the form has come from?
“I’m much more experienced than when I was at Sevilla, Schalke or Celtic,” he told Sky Sports ahead of his side’s clash with Swansea on Friday night. “Those years in Denmark changed my game and how I played football.
“The last two years in particular were really good. I got a lot of goals and my self-confidence back after some harder times, then here at Norwich I felt like I was at home from the first moment. The games started to go well from the beginning and I’ve just kept going.
“I’ve really enjoyed being here in Norwich and the team we have is really special. English football is so massive and I’m really looking forward to these last 11 games.”
As mentioned before, this is not Pukki’s first stint in Britain. The Finland international spent the 2013/14 season at Celtic and became a Scottish Premiership winner in the process.
His individual impact, however, was indifferent, netting nine goals in 37 games before his switch to Brondby. He still values his time in Glasgow, however, as it taught him about a side of the game he hadn’t previously experienced.
“I think we can say it wasn’t the success we were hoping for and it was a hard time for me personally. I started well and got a couple of goals, but then it didn’t go so well and it’s hard to say why.
“The one year I had there was a really good experience for me. I have good memories and it made me a better player. I got used to the physical play in Scotland and it taught me about some stuff for sure.
“I’m happy even though it didn’t go so well and I guess it wasn’t meant to be. Then I got the transfer I needed to Denmark.”
Pukki admits it wasn’t just a lack of experience that held him back earlier in his career. The striker knows he didn’t work as hard as he probably should have done when he was first breaking through, but his influential coach at Brondby, Alexander Zorniger, changed all that.
Norwich vs Swansea
March 8, 2019, 7:00pm
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“I’m more grown up for sure and probably more professional than I was,” he said. “Also the coach at Brondby changed the way I think about football, my work ethic and things like that.
“I was probably a bit lazy. I was not doing the defensive work I should have done, and that’s one thing [Zorniger] taught me. When I do defensive work well it always helps my offensive game. That’s been a big change for me.
“Being a father has changed me as well. Football is not the biggest thing anymore, there’s something more important in my life.
“If I have a bad game I go home and see my daughter and I don’t think about the bad game anymore. My family help me do what I do on the pitch, and my fiancee helps a lot so I can rest at home and be as focused as I can.”
It has been a strange path to Norwich for Pukki, who revealed that at first he was uncertain about making the move to the Championship because of its perceived reputation for long-ball football.
A meeting with head coach Daniel Farke and sporting director Stuart Webber changed all that. It’s something that Norwich fans will be extremely grateful for.
“When I first heard about Norwich’s interests my first thought was that it wasn’t for me!” Pukki said. “I still thought the English Championship was all long balls, but then I saw some clips of how we play and I had a talk with Stuart Webber and the boss and they made me realise that wasn’t the case here.
“[Farke] knew me really well before I came here and was one of the big reasons I did. we had a talk and he told me he knew how to get the best out of me.
“The way we play suits me really well and I got many assists from the other guys, so it’s been easy. We play really good football with short passes and we create a lot of chances. I think people who are watching us play enjoy it because I know I would be. He’s also really good at man management and is a really supportive guy.
“It’s one of the best dressing rooms I’ve been involved in. The new guys who come in are so welcome from the first day and there are some really funny guys here. Stiepi (Marco Stiepermann) had to clean the coach’s car the other day and that’s something I’ve never seen before!”
Inevitably, discussion soon turns to the scoring of goals. One more this season would make him the first player to score 25 in the league for Norwich since Chris Sutton in 1993/94. The club record is 31, managed by Ralph Hunt in 1955/56.
Pukki insists, however, he is only interested in team prizes.
“I heard about it but I’m not so much about personal success,” he said. “I haven’t made any targets of how many goals I want to score, because I just want to help the team.
“But I believe in every game that I’ll score because of how we are playing as a team. I know the other guys will give me chances to score and it has been going well at the moment.”
And the ultimate team prize for Norwich this season will be promotion to the Premier League. Victory against Swansea would take them five points clear of Leeds in second with just 10 games for them to play.
“Of course that’s our dream but we are still realistic and know there are 11 games to go,” said Pukki. “There is no need to overthink it and think we are already there, because we aren’t yet.
“It would be the biggest achievement in my career and I hope and believe I can do it. But there is still a lot of work to do.”