Few of us would’ve predicted Teemu Pukki’s blistering start to life in the Premier League.
Five goals in his first three games – including a brilliant hat-trick against Newcastle – sees the Norwich hit-man top of the scoring charts for the time being, even above the likes of Sergio Aguero and Mo Salah.
Perhaps it isn’t too surprising.
After all, the Finland international netted a stunning 29 times in the Championship last season as the Canaries stormed to the league title.
But surely it’s one thing to do it in the Championship… and another to succeed in the promise land of the Premier League?
Stepping up to the big time has always been tricky business for Championship goalscorers.
Take Czech striker Matej Vydra for example; he scored for fun in three particularly fruitful Championship campaigns – twice for Watford, and then the 2017–18 season for Derby – but has netted just four times in the Premier League overall, including just a single strike last season for Burnley.
It’s a similar story for the familiar names of Andre Gray, Patrick Bamford, Dwight Gayle and Chelsea youngster Tammy Abraham.
And all things considered, it was perhaps fair to lump Pukki in with this lot too, considering his previous spells in various top-flight seasons across Europe.
Ten years ago, an 18-year-old Pukki was handed his big break by La Liga giants Sevilla, but he made just a single appearance in two years for them before returning to Finnish club HJK with his tail between his legs.
He also struggled to make his mark in the Bundesliga during his two-year spell at Schalke, as he struggled for game time in a side that had both Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Spanish legend Raul in the striker positions.
A year at Celtic followed, but in an environment and team that should’ve seen him flourish, he managed just seven goals in just one season – a haul that’s particularly conspicuous considering the Bhoys sheer domination of the Scottish Premiership in 2013–14.
But with all of his previous failings behind him, Pukki is now in the form of his life at Norwich under the guide of his manager Daniel Farke – a man who seemingly understands how to get the very best out of him.
Having initially started out in a support position behind main striker Jordan Rhodes at the beginning of last season, the gaffer opted to move Pukki further forward after the team suffered defeats to West Brom, Sheffield United and Leeds in the early weeks of the campaign.
His new role was an instant success and combined his ability to adapt to different situations in the game with his energy, work-rate and eye-for-goal.
By Christmas he’d netted 13 times, and he finished the Championship campaign as top-goalscorer and Player of the Year.
But even after quickly finding his feet in the Premier League, it’s surely too much to expect him to enjoy similar success this season, right?
Maybe so, but there’s certainly plenty of examples of potent Championship strikers continuing their goal-scoring form in the Premier League.
Take Kevin Phillips, who netted 23 goals for Sunderland in their promotion-winning season of 1998–99 – his form even earning him an England call-up – before a storming 1999–00 season in the top-flight that saw him pick up not only the Golden Boot but also the European Golden Shoe with a return of 30 goals.
The same could be said for Crystal Palace’s Andrew Johnson, who almost single-handedly kept them in the Premier League in 2004–05 with 21 goals – second only to Thierry Henry.
Then of course there’s been other more recent instances, including Charlie Austin’s haul of 18 goals for QPR in 2014–15 during his first stint in the top-flight and just a year after netting 17 times in the Championship.
Rickie Lambert, Grant Holt, Glenn Murray and Odion Ighalo have also enjoyed scoring spells in the Premier League after coming up from the Championship.
The fact is, there’s plenty of strikers out there that Pukki can draw inspiration from.
And although it’s early days, the Finnish forward is anything but finished and could prove to be the surprise star of the season ahead.
Defenders, watch out.
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