Finns are looking up for Shefki

SHEFKI Kuqi has never played in the Premiership - but he knows exactly what to expect!If and when the opportunity arises to grace England's top flight with his presence, he is fully prepared.

SHEFKI Kuqi has never played in the Premiership - but he knows exactly what to expect!

If and when the opportunity arises to grace England's top flight with his presence, he is fully prepared.

The 15-goal Finn is no stranger to the big-time, having played in the Champions League and in senior internationals at some of Europe's leading venues.

Kuqi, 28, also points to sitting in a packed Old Trafford having further whetted his appetite to sample the Premiership with Ipswich, sooner rather than later.


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As he prepared to face Nottingham Forest at Portman Road today, the powerful striker admitted: “All my career I have been aiming to play in the Premiership.

“It has been my target for many years and now I could be just ten games from making the dream come true.”

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But Kuqi had one eye on Town's recent run of four games without a win, three of which he missed with a deep gash in his left thigh, when he added: “We must make sure we don't throw away all the good work that has been done this season.

“There is no point in making excuses for the games we lost. The damage is done and it is the ten games we still have to play that matter now.

“We must believe we can win automatic promotion. There is no point in talking about what we are going to do - we must perform out on the pitch to get the results we need.”

Kuqi is adamant that Ipswich can finish in the top two and that either Wigan or Sunderland will have to settle for a play-off place.

He added: “It is still in our own hands and we have Sunderland to come at Portman Road.

“Wigan must also play Sunderland and no matter what happens in that game we will benefit.

“Either one team will lose three points on the day or they will both drop two if they draw.

“We are not alone in dropping points. Wigan lost at Gillingham and Sunderland were beaten at Brighton - in this league all the teams are capable of beating any other on a certain day.”

Kuqi would welcome the chance to play in the Premiership after sampling the European big-time with HJK Helsinki back in the 1998-99 campaign.

He recalled: “We played our home games in front of only 2,000 to 3,000 supporters but for the Champions League the fans came from all over the country. The ground was full with 30,000 spectators.

“We were not expected to do anything and no one could believe it when we got past the French team, Metz, in a qualifying game.

“Reaching the group stages made history in Finland. We beat Benfica at home and got a 2-2 draw in Lisbon.

“We also drew at home with Kaiserslautern and it was 1-1 against PSV in Eindhoven when they scored in the 94th minute to win the game, but a win and two draws from six games was a good performance from us.

“That was a great experience and I have played at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff and Schalke's stadium in Germany, with my national team.

“When I was with Stockport we were drawn at Tottenham in the FA Cup, so I know what it is like to play at some of the big grounds.”

It was also during his time at Edgeley Park that Kuqi would regularly make the short journey to see Manchester United in action.

He said: “I loved going there to watch games but playing there would be even better. It is what all players want.

“Although we are close we still have a lot of hard work to do. There are ten massive games and it is up to us - no one is going to do it for us.”

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