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Slower pace of Turkey trip can bring Pukki up to speed at Celtic

SOME footballers see a winter break as a chance for some well earned rest midway through a tiring season, but relaxation is the last thing on Teemu Pukki's mind.

Having been rushed into Glasgow on August deadline day, then found his training ground time limited by international trips, the odd niggle here and there and a rigorous schedule of matches in various competitions, the Finn regards this week's trip to Turkey simply as an opportunity to step up his work to finally get his Celtic career started in earnest.

The Parkhead side jet out to Antalya tomorrow after today's SPFL Premiership encounter against St Mirren for a four-team tournament involving Galatasaray, Trabzonspor and Ajax, all of which will be staged at the 7,100-capacity Akdeniz Üniversitesi-Stadion. Pukki, for one, has no intentions of treating the trip as a holiday.

Having said that, the player's usual routine does tend to involve some down time round about now. The Finnish league runs on a May to November calendar, meaning January is pencilled in as the time to restart pre-season training, while the seasons he spent at Schalke included 10 days' family time at the turn of the year followed by some warm weather training in Qatar.

"Hopefully in 2014 I can start scoring a lot of goals," said the 23-year-old, who has hit the net just three times for his new club. "I think I took a little bit more time than I thought to adapt to the game here, but I am confident, I believe I can start scoring.

"I think it would have been easier for me to have come at the beginning of summer, but I came on the last day and haven't had so much time to train with the team because we have played so much," he added. "It has been hard recently, with so many games [five in 15 days] and maybe we haven't played so well, but we have won every game so we can still be quite happy."

If more was expected of Pukki, further mitigation lies in the fact he has partnered a number of different players up front, which has made forming a settled double act difficult. Although Neil Lennon was impressed by the player's abilities as a lone striker for Finland, Pukki feels more suited to playing alongside a strike partner. In recent weeks he has been showing more aggression, however, and has taken on some extra gym work to deal with the physical rigours of the Scottish game.

"I need to be a little bit more physical, and not lose balls so easily," said Pukki. "So I am doing work in the gym with the physios. I am used to playing always with two strikers, so that is what I think is best for me, but I will always try to do my best. I hope it comes earlier, but I think next season will be a lot better than this season."

Unsurprisingly, his manager is hoping to bear the fruits sooner than that, even if players such as Ki-Sung Yeung took longer than Pukki did to genuinely adjust to the Scottish style of football. "I'm hoping we'll see the best of him in the second half of the season," said Lennon. "But it does take time for players to adjust. Ki was a prime example.

"I don't think physically he needs to bulk up more, he just needs to get in the box more," the Northern Irishman added. "That's where I'd like him to be, getting on the end of things. Centre-forward is such an important position and I want him to get involved more in the play.

"When I went to see him play for Finland in August he played up front on his own and played the role very well," he added. "However, we don't generally play with one striker. We tend to go with two up top, or one off him. Maybe it's the case of him playing off somebody, a more physical presence. But he's got to get more in the game and link up a little bit more for our liking."

While the manager may or may not have time for a spot of golfing out in Turkey, and will have his hands full keeping abreast of potential transfer comings and goings, he too thinks getting in some proper training sessions in after such match congestion will feel like something of a luxury. "This week will allow us to get some technical work into the players, tactical even in terms of shadow play and shape," said Lennon. "It's a luxury because we never have the time to do it here.

"We'll get a bit of training work into them, a different environment," he said. "But some of them definitely need a rest."

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