"After five goals in the three games, I have to say he is a pretty good signing for us," said Fulham FC coach Martin Jol as he reflected on the decision to bring in Pavel Pogrebnyak on loan from VfB Stuttgart on transfer deadline day.
The former FC Tom Tomsk and FC Zenit St Petersburg man, 28, got a goal in each of his first two appearances in England, wins against Stoke City FC and Queens Park Rangers FC. He then went up a gear in his third outing with a hat-trick in a 5-0 victory against Wolverhampton Wanderers FC on Sunday. "To score five goals from five shots on goal is pretty unbelievable," the Russia striker told UEFA.com. "However, five shots on goal in three matches is not enough. I am a striker; I need to have way more shots on goal. I have to work on this."
Following in the footsteps of Andrei Kanchelskis (twice) and Andrey Arshavin to become the third Russian international to score a hat-trick in England's top division was an emotional experience for Pogrebnyak. "I took the ball with me as a souvenir and got it signed by everyone on the team," he said. "They gave me a magnum of champagne, but I gave that to someone at the club right away. After the final whistle, I was asked for an interview, and they wanted it so much that the television guys weren't fazed by my lack of English. Eventually, I came up with something. I hope they understood me."
Language barriers notwithstanding, Pogrebnyak's Fulham team-mates have clearly worked out how to communicate with the forward, signed as a replacement for QPR-bound Bobby Zamora. "We speak a lot on daily basis and they tell me exactly where I should make my runs," he said. "I am trying to do what I am told to do. At Stuttgart, I had to go back and help the defenders a lot. Here, I only need to come back for set pieces."
After scoring at QPR, Pogrebnyak fulfilled a small personal ambition by celebrating with the away fans. "Watching English football as a child, I saw how they celebrated goals here, and I wanted to do it too," he said. "I did it and I got booked straight away, so I guess I have to be more reserved from now on."
However, it is that lack of restraint that has sold Pogrebnyak on English football, after an often frustrating spell at Stuttgart, for whom he scored 15 goals in 68 Bundesliga games since joining in 2009. "I like it more here," explained Pogrebnyak. "There are no athletics tracks around the pitches, and 20,000 fans here are as loud as 80,000 in Dortmund. The passion is just fantastic. I also enjoy the higher pace of the games.
Sometimes I end up with my tongue hanging out, desperate for a rest, but I am getting used to it, and soon I won't have any problem."
Whether he will stay in England beyond the summer is anyone's guess at the moment, but in the meantime he hopes his goals can keep him in the frame for a UEFA EURO 2012 place – not least as Russia assistant coach Aleksandr Borodyuk owes him. "Aleksandr offered me a bet on how many goals I would score in England before the end of season," Pogrebnyak said. "It was in my interest to name the smallest number possible, so I said five. Borodyuk thought for a while and agreed. I bet he's regretting that now."
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