CHIGWELL - Russia striker Roman Pavlyuchenko has started to shine after a slow start at Tottenham Hotspur, the club he joined in August from Spartak Moscow for 17 million euros ($21.45 million). Pavlyuchenko arrived in the Premier League with a big reputation after helping Russia reach the Euro 2008 semi-finals under Dutchman Guus Hiddink but found life tough in a new country where he did not speak the language. "From the first game, or maybe even the first training session, I realised I had to restructure my game," he said. "It's a lot faster, more mobile and more physically demanding so I definitely needed to make a change to my game. "The Premier League is probably one of the best in the world and one of the most challenging. I have experienced personal growth since joining this league and I have developed as a player," said Pavlyuchenko at the club's training ground. "At least it didn't take me half a year or a year to adjust. Sometimes foreign players in Russia take that long." Pavlyuchenko hit the headlines in October 2007 by scoring twice in Russia's 2-1 victory over England in a Euro 2008 qualifier in Moscow. He followed up by scoring three goals in five games at the finals in Austria and Switzerland, finding the target against Netherlands and eventual champions Spain as Russia exceeded expectations by reaching the last four. Pavlyuchenko struggled at first to make an impact in England, scoring just once in his first six games for Spurs. But he has now found his feet at White Hart Lane by notching a total of seven goals in 14 appearances. DIFFICULT START That tally includes a goal in every game in the League Cup since he opened his account at Newcastle United in the third round, helping the holders reach the semi-finals. "My game has changed and the results have changed and this is the obvious thing that everybody notices," he said after Spurs had endured a difficult start to the season under Spanish manager Juande Ramos before Harry Redknapp took over. Ramos said Pavlyuchenko and potential strike partner Darren Bent found it difficult to play together although the Russian believes they can form a potent combination. "It seems everybody keeps saying there's a problem with the two of us playing together but I don't feel there's a problem providing we play together more," said Pavlyuchenko after training ahead of Monday's league game at West Ham United. "It's too early to judge this partnership. It's impossible to expect a new player joining the club to fit in immediately with everybody, and there's a language barrier. But it will come." The 26-year-old said he enjoyed spending 1-1/2 hours four afternoons a week learning English but added he disliked the local food so his wife Larisa always prepares Russian dishes for him and their two-year-old daughter Kristina. Pavlyuchenko was born in Mostovskoy and started out with local club Dinamo Stavropol before moving to Rotor Volgograd in the top flight in 2000. He joined Spartak in 2003 and was top scorer in the Russian Premier League in 2006 and 2007. "I always set a target for the season for how many goals I want to score," he told Reuters. "I expect 15 in all competitions (this season) and if I manage 20 that would be superb." As well as helping Spurs climb the table and progress in the domestic and UEFA Cup competitions, Pavlyuchenko has his sights on qualifying for the 2010 World Cup with Russia. "Now we are being taken seriously by all national teams," he said proudly. "We have a good chance (of reaching the World Cup) and we should be able to take it. "Our previous success we should treat as the absolute bottom line, the starting point."
6 December 2008
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