Family affair for Kuqi
SHEFKI Kuqi has an extra incentive to play in the Premiership next season, competing against his younger brother for the first time ever.Njazi Kuqi signed for Birmingham City from FC Lahti earlier in the season and even though he is out with a broken toe at the moment, the pair spent last week talking about how they would love the Blues to meet the Blues in the top flight.
By Derek Davis
SHEFKI Kuqi has an extra incentive to play in the Premiership next season, competing against his younger brother for the first time ever.
Njazi Kuqi signed for Birmingham City from FC Lahti earlier in the season and even though he is out with a broken toe at the moment, the pair spent last week talking about how they would love the Blues to meet the Blues in the top flight.
Kuqi the elder has hit 16 goals for Ipswich Town so far this season and admits the prospect of having his parents come over from Finland to see both sons playing in the Premiership is something he has thought about.
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He said: “To play against him one day would be a dream come true. We have never played against each other before. We have trained together or had a kick about but never met in a game yet.
“It would be something special for my parents to come over and watch Ipswich against Birmingham in the Premiership.”
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With both sons turning professional the Kuqi parents have found themselves with time on their hands on a Saturday, although there is another potential footballer in the family.
Albert, who is only 13, is also a whiz at school and Shefki believes he may not necessarily follow in his brothers' footsteps. He said: “My parents do miss watching games because they used to watch us home and away.
“Albert though is the clever one so he doesn't have to play football. He can do if he wants but he is intelligent and so can do anything he likes, there is no pressure.”
With league titles and cup medals already in his trophy cabinet, Finland international Shefki relishes the challenge of a promotion fight.
He said: “The bigger the game the more I enjoy it. I won everything that could be won in Finland and have played international football.
“So I know the big atmosphere and when you are playing at that level it is a joy. It is a great feeling to be playing at the top level. People think it is not easy because everyone wants to beat you, but I love it.
“You can really feel you have achieved something. To be in the top three is not easy so you can feel proud when you are there.”
Kuqi is also convinced that if Town do make it to the Premiership that they are capable of staying there. He said: “There is not much of gap between the top three in the Championship and the lower half of the Premiership. The way we play football and the way we keep the ball and pass it, then if we did get promotion I would say we have got a good chance of staying up.
“A club like Ipswich knows what it takes to stay in that league and the Gaffer is experienced in the Premiership and in taking teams up.”
Kuqi admits not many people would have tipped Town to go up at the third attempt but praises Joe Royle's management and tips him to keep the right blend in the top flight, even if that means adding to the squad.
He added: “If you look at our squad at the beginning of the season not many people would have given us much chance to be even challenging for the play-offs. There was Sunderland, Wigan West Ham, Wolves, Leeds, Leicester and Reading, all those looked more likely, but here we are.
“The club has learned lessons from the past and is building a team for the future. It has cost almost nothing to put together so the manager has been very clever. Only the manager knows how many players we will need if we did get up. He knows how we play and he will be the one who knows what is needed for us to stay up.
“Even if we don't go up we will see what sort of squad we have and then deal with that. At the moment we have not achieved anything and we still have four important games to go.”
Kuqi also believes home comforts will help Town overcome a stubborn Sunderland. He has scored nine of his 16 goals at Portman Road and loves the fans' backing. He said: “It is about nerve and experience at this stage of the season. We know we can beat anyone so what we need to do is be focused for Sunday and win that.
“The atmosphere here has been brilliant all season and that has helped keep us going. The fans have been fantastic and so you try and enjoy each game and give something for them to cheer. We have not let them down at home, apart from a couple of games, but mostly the fans have walked away happy.”
Ian Westlake is expected to train this morning and will be given a fitness test on his injured knee tomorrow.