NINE or so months after joining Bradford City, Kai Bruenker this week finally broke his goalscoring duck at the 17th attempt.
A bullet header from Jack Payne’s corner did the trick for the German striker, whose manic celebrations betrayed the immense relief felt at getting off the mark.
Bruenker’s goal early in the second half was not enough to prevent a youthful Bantams side being beaten 4-1 by Oldham Athletic in the Checkatrade Trophy.
But the lift it has given the forward is evident even after just a few moments in his company.
“To score was a special moment,” said a smiling Bruenker to The Yorkshire Post.
“It brought the old feelings back, an amazing moment for me. I lost control a little bit after the goal as it had been a long time.
“It showed I have not forgotten (how to score). I feel good. Like a weight has come off my shoulders.”
The Bradford City that Bruenker found the net for on Tuesday night feels very different to the one he joined from SC Freiburg II last January.
For a start the 24-year-old is now playing under his fourth Bantams head coach. Only four of the matchday squad as Bruenker came off the bench to make his debut against AFC Wimbledon are still at Valley Parade.
The biggest contrast, however, comes with the club itself. City were sitting pretty in fifth when he moved to the West Riding, but are third bottom today.
Bradford’s owners Edin Rahic and Stefan Rupp have suffered a similar nosedive in the popularity stakes with supporters holding the German duo responsible for the dramatic fall from grace.
Bruenker, in many ways, has been part of the collateral damage with many supporters, rightly or wrongly, suspecting the striker plucked from obscurity in German football to be a signing that had little to do with then head coach Stuart McCall.
The very embodiment, therefore, of the suspected interference from above that has turned the Valley Parade faithful against the club’s hierarchy.
Not that this is the fault of Bruenker, someone so amiable that it is easy to wish him well in the quest to establish a first-team place at Bradford.
“I have a lot to learn,” he admitted, “but I enjoy the football in England. Germany is more (a case of) wait(ing) in the middle for the ball. There are a lot of passes.
“Here you go searching for the ball as a striker. This is what I like, to go into tackles.
“You get a good feeling from the team when you win a header or a tackle or hold the ball and pass to a midfield player.
“I also like the people in the seats and the atmosphere. The fans here live for football. They catch you when you do something good and that is an amazing feeling.
“Scoring (against Oldham) brings confidence to me. I had not scored since playing for Freiburg. I cannot remember when that was. A long time, though it was a nice goal. I score only nice goals.”
For the record, Bruenker’s previous goal before Tuesday came in late November last year as Freiburg’s second string triumphed 4-3 at home to Koblenz.
It was his eighth of the season, the striker’s importance to Freiburg being such that the club’s top scorer come May (Christoph Daferner) managed just two more goals than Bruenker’s own tally despite playing 10 more games.
The fourth tier of German football to League One has proved a big step up. Now off the mark, however, Bruenker’s target is to play his way into manager David Hopkin’s long-term plans.
The City chief, appointed a few days after the summer transfer window closed, admitted yesterday to having started to formulate a plan for January already.
“Over the first couple of weeks I was here I knew what I wanted and what was missing,” said the Scot. “Any head coach or manager is always planning.
“You are speaking to people and laying foundations. You don’t just want to scramble about in January thinking, ‘Who am I going to get?’
“Whether January becomes a window of opportunity depends who wants to come and who is prepared to let players go.”
The challenge for Bruenker and everyone else already at Valley Parade is proving their worth long before the new year comes round.
“I did not start the season too well,” said the German striker. “The first seven league games I didn’t come in as a sub.
“David Hopkin came and he likes how I play. Now I see my chances as better. The way the team wants to play is better for me.”
City head to Accrington Stanley tomorrow badly in need of a lift. Performances have improved under Hopkin, but the Scot’s first six games have still yielded only four points.
“We have big potential in this team,” insists Bruenker. “I know from my own experience if you always work hard then this helps you. We will come up from the bottom.”