Pukki: Is This Really Goodbye?


We've fished out our favourite GOAT goals - now here's Nathan Hill for a deeper dive into the Norwich love story. No, you're crying.

It took me a while to cotton on to the fact that ‘pukki’ literally translates as ‘goat’ in Finnish. It has gone on to become one of the most apt nicknames ever given to a Norwich City player. Over five years of excellent and not-so excellent football at Carrow Road, there has been one constant: Teemu Pukki scoring goals. Lots of goals. All while carrying himself with such an unflappable, unassuming demeanour that shouldn’t typically be associated with someone who’s paid to be ruthless and clinical when the posts and net are in his sights.

Just as the English national team was about to enjoy its brightest tournament performance in a generation, domestic footballing affairs in Norfolk cast a cloudier, more foreboding outlook. The first season of the Daniel Farke and Stuart Webber-led project had culminated in a 14th place finish in the second tier – Norwich’s lowest position in the pyramid since the League One campaign of 2009/10. There had already been one giant sea change at the club culturally, and both in terms of playing style and personnel, one year prior. James Maddison had shone but thus had to be sold, just to make ends meet. Very little of the then-club record fee would be reinvested in the squad. Webber was shopping in the infamous middle aisle of Lidl – the home of items that will either turn out to be a godsend, or end up being discarded at a car boot in the not-so-distant future.

On the 30th of June, just as the knockout stages were getting underway in Russia, the club announced the Finn’s arrival. Unheralded by some (especially Celtic fans), unknown by many, very few could’ve expected much from a guy who had yet to find a home, or score prolifically,  anywhere outside of Scandinavia. The fact that Norwich dipped into the market for another striker, in the form of the much more proven (in England) Jordan Rhodes, perhaps suggested they too were hedging their bets. Teemu would start the season playing out wide in a front three.

Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs, Manchester United and, of course, Manchester City – Teemu scored against them all.

From the very beginning of 2018/19, however, at a time when the jury was still very much out on whether Farkeball would ever lift off the ground, Teemu was scoring goals. During what would later be labeled a throwaway, ‘free hit’ of a Premier League campaign, Teemu was scoring goals. During lockdown, with everyone looking to football for escapism more than ever before, Teemu was scoring goals. And during another miserable twelve-month existence in the top flight, with a shocking lack of supply, Teemu was still finding a way to score goals. Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs, Manchester United and, of course, Manchester City – Teemu scored against them all.

Eighty-eight is the final total. Just four of those with his head – he’d use that solely to know when and where to be, to telepathically sense where Emi Buendia or Marco Stiepermann or Onel Hernández or whoever was about to play the ball. From that point, the finish was almost always guaranteed. Rarely flashy and rarely bursting the net, he’d typically slot home with the consummate ease and inevitability of a snooker player rolling in a black off its spot. Teemu was a great goalscorer rather than a scorer of great goals, although one or two do stand out. Two volleys against Newcastle – the first of his hat trick back in the halcyon days of August 2019, where a wide-eyed Norwich actually attacked the Premier League with freedom and innocence, and in the pressure cooker of St James’ Park in November 2021, lifting a limp and lifeless display against a ten-man opposition with a moment of elite quality we frankly didn’t deserve. 

Teemu just knew how to “bring the ball to the rectangle,” as Farke would put it.

Among the collection, you’ll also find plenty of examples of the instinctive and improvisational qualities that make him the most cerebral and intelligent striker – nay, player – I’ve seen in yellow and green. Whether it was using his chest to cushion a double-deflected throughball at QPR past a wrong-footed goalkeeper, or the even more…delicate touch to divert a low cross from Jamal Lewis into the near post against Birmingham, Teemu just knew how to “bring the ball to the rectangle,” as Farke would put it. Others before him tended to either have the knack of cold, calculated finishing but struggled to sniff out the poacher’s efforts, or the opposite – always cashing in in tight areas with deft touches and movements but with a lower conversion rate when able to take time and weigh things up. Teemu scored all of these types of goals. You can find many more of our favourites here.

As the minutes ticked by in his farewell appearance, as his final few chances to add to his tally came and went, and as the fourth official held aloft the number 22 about ten minutes from time, I (and many others, I suspect) couldn’t help but think: “well, what do we do now?” There were a few fleeting renditions of Farke’s on a Horse from the Barclay and Snakepit against Blackpool, sad and poignant. While a few others still remain from the time that song was a mainstay of the matchday hymn sheet, Teemu was probably the last real bastion of that original promotion team. The most magical of times following this club which still makes me mushy when harking back to it. That era, while we all know it anyway given how this season has unravelled, has firmly ended but it partially lived on through Teemu. Many of the most joyous days and memories I, and any Norwich fan, have had this century have been created by that man.

And whoever the next Teemu Pukki is, he won’t really be another Teemu Pukki.

New heroes will emerge in due time; whether you have any confidence in the current regime to find them is another debate. I never believed we’d find another Grant Holt. Well, actually, we still haven’t. Teemu Pukki was a very different player and a very different character to the former tyre fitter from Carlisle. And whoever the next Teemu Pukki is, he won’t really be another Teemu Pukki, or another Grant Holt. We can only hope there is another out there who can emulate their numbers, their success and their legendary status. Kiitos, Teemu. Go and score lots more goals for whoever you see fit.

Oh and that goal against Spurs was onside. It just was.


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