Gary Hooper: Everything Fans Of Norwich Need To Know About Celtic's Poacher
Norwich's new signing Gary Hooper became an instant hero at Celtic after signing from Scunthorpe in 2010. It was a marriage made in heaven - a man called Hooper joined the Hoops, was immediately christened Hooperman, and scored goals from day one. The clamour for him to be selected for the England squad was inevitable, albeit that it initially came almost entirely from the east end of Glasgow.
Recently, though, praise has come from further afield and Gary Lineker, a man who knows a thing or two about scoring goals for Spurs and England, recently tweeted that it must be time for the national side to have a look at him.
Rightly or wrongly, there will be question marks over Hooper’s credentials as long as he plies his trade in the SPL, but with Celtic’s return to the Champions League he has the platform to prove his worth. He grabbed the opportunity with both hands in Moscow, scoring and frightening the life out of the Spartak defence in a thrilling 3-2 victory. But is he good enough? Let’s break it down.
Finishing - 9
Hooper is a natural and clinical finisher. Not one for the big grandstand efforts, he doesn’t often wallop them in from 20 yards but that’s because his positioning is so good he doesn’t have to. Measured sidefoots and close-range finishes are more his game. Sorry for mentioning Mr Lineker again, but that does remind you of anyone? He has an uncanny ability to contort his body in tight situations inside the box to create just enough space and purchase to get shots off, and he doesn’t miss many.
Heading – 7
At 5ft 9, he’s not the biggest striker you’ll ever see and with plenty aerial threat from the likes of Wanyama, Mulgrew and Samaras at Celtic, he’s rarely the primary target at setpieces. That said, his strength and physique make him appear bigger than he is and he’s scored plenty with the noggin in his time at Parkhead.
Movement - 9
Celts winger Kris Commons recently lauded Hooper’s movement and vision in the Scottish press, citing it as an important factor in many of the team’s goals, not just his own. He can leave centre-halves wondering what day it is with his off-the-ball running and has that priceless knack of turning up in the right place at the right time.
Pace - 6
He’s nobody’s slowcoach but equally Hooper’s not going to be giving Usain Bolt a run for his money. Though pace is not the most noticeable part of his game, his awareness, positioning and strength allow him to get ahead of defenders, as he proved when he got in behind Spartak’s Insaurralde, who was consequently sent off for hauling him down.
Technique - 8
Technique comes in many forms. It’s hard to bring to mind an incident of Hooper dribbling past three defenders but that’s normally because he’s already popped up wrong side of them and is about to get on the end of a cross. His ability is in using his remarkable upper body strength to wriggle away from defenders, and his first touch is his most impressive attribute. He can receive a ball that comes down with snow on and either make it stick or knock it effortlessly into his path. This is how he manages to score so many goals that look easy.
Overall – 8
Hooper is equal parts poacher, powerhouse and provider. He’ll drop deep and hold the ball up to open things up for his team-mates, and he’ll equally pop up at the back post to finish from close range. If there’s one criticism, he can have the odd spell where he looks off the pace, but they don’t happen often and they never last very long.
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