Shefki Kuqi reflected on his days in the Palace colours, that trademark goal celebration and took time out to meet up with some old friends as he continued his path on the football management ladder during a visit to the club’s Copers Cope training headquarters in Beckenham.
Having made 78 appearances for the club in a playing career which saw him make just under 550 appearances he was pleased to be back amongst familiar faces as he took the opportunity to continue working towards his coaching badges.
“I am doing my Pro-License and it was an easy one to pick up the phone and call people that I know here, I know Dougie and Roy so it was easy to pick this club and come along, said the 41 year old as reflected on the times working under Roy Hodgson as a player.
“First time we met was with the Finland national team and when I was on loan at Fulham from Palace Roy got the Fulham job so we were there for a little bit together then as well. He’s a great man, a really nice guy and a good coach. As a player you cannot miss anything as he is very clear as to what he wants and you trust the way you train and play with him plus he always gets results.
“He has done well because when he took over no one gave him a chance and look where they are now and that comes through hard work. So many managers have changed but he has come in and does a job, something he has always done.”
He joined the Eagles on transfer deadline day in August 2006 and has mixed memories of his time at Selhurst Park but it is a period of his career that he holds some fond memories of.
“I remember when I came here we wanted to get straight back as we had just been relegated but we never really got going, we had some good players and a good team but it was difficult.
“First the manager was Peter Taylor and then came Neil Warnock but as we all know the Championship is quite difficult to get promoted from but I had some good times as well as bad but most of the time I have to say I enjoyed.”
After each of his 17 goals for the club the crowd would wait for his trademark celebration but amazingly landed on his chest like did so many times during his career has called no lasting damage for the former Finland international.
“No everything is fine, when you score a goal there is nothing better than the buzz and feeling you get so you don’t feel anything.”
On his return to Beckenham one of the people who he enjoyed a catch up with was Player Of The Year, Wilfried Zaha, and the Eagles striker of some ten years ago was pleased to see the progress the Ivorian has made.
“Wilf was a young boy when I was here along with Victor Moses and Clynie, they were just breaking into the first team and you could see something they had but you never know at that age but they have all done really well, all three of them.”
Once his playing days were over Shefki soon had the chance to move into the dugout with his first managerial role at FC Honka in Finland and after coming to terms with the transition from player he reflects with content on his early steps in the management game.
“It took me a good year to feel confident as it’s a totally different game. As a player you go in you do the session and everything is prepared for you with not a great deal to worry about but as a manager or coach it is totally different.
“I have done it now for four years, I managed to keep two teams in the league, avoiding relegation and got promotion with one team from the Championship to the Premier League. It’s been a great journey but difficult with the financial situation, especially in Finland but that is a lesson I learned. I think it gave me a platform ready to go onto the next level.”
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