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Gary Hooper at Celtic – What might have been

Gary Hooper at Celtic – What might have been

Since Henrik Larsson tearfully trudged off the Celtic Park pitch for the last time in the Hoops nearly twenty years ago, we’ve not seen a striker who compares to the King of Kings. Not even close, but we have had some fantastic ones.

From Craig Bellamy, Scott McDonald Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, Robbie Keane, Gary Hooper, Moussa Dembele, Odssone Edouard and presently Kyogo. All talented players but not as good as Henrik himself.

One man that maybe doesn’t get the credit as some of the others is Gary Hooper, Gary was a fantastic player and had everything a modern day striker needs to succeed in the game. Right foot, left foot, he could finish with both. He wasn’t bad in the air, he could hold the ball up, he had strength and pace and more importantly he knew were the goal was. He could finish alright, 82 goals for the club in 138 games over a four year period testifies to that.

Gary was signed by Neil Lennon from Scunthorpe United for a fee of £2.4 million in July 2010. Gary had played all his football in the lower reaches of English football so he was taking a step up in joining Celtic and by parting with such a big fee, Neil Lennon was obviously convinced of his talents.

Neil was right and Gary quickly settled into life as a Celtic player and did what he done best, score goals. In his four year stay he banged in 82 goals and won four major honours. Scoring a brace in the 2013 Scottish cup final win. He won the Scottish premier league golden boot in 2012 and was the clubs top scorer in three seasons of his four year stay.

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He also proved himself in the European scene, scoring goals in both the Champions League and Europa league group stages. Gary was the real deal. Indeed at one point he had the fourth best strike rate in Europe just behind names like Leo Messi Cristiano Ronaldo and Antonio Di Natale

Gary like most players had a burning desire to play for his country and he was good enough to play for the three lions, but like most English players up north, he wasn’t deemed worthy of a place due to the ignorance the English have for our game.

Gary decided to move to the EPL in pursuit of his International ambitions and joined Norwich City for £5 million in 2014. Despite finishing as top scorer with 8 goals he couldn’t stop Norwich being relegated and his hopes of being picked for England were also dead in the water.

It’s also worth noting that by scoring in the EPL Gary become the first and still is the only player to score in all of England’s top four divisions, the Scottish top flight, both domestic cups, the Champions League and Europa League group stages, a wonderful feat indeed.

He would later join Sheffield Wednesday before going to New Zealand to play for A league side Wellington Phoenix, then spells at Indian super League side Kerala Blasters, before being reunited with Neil Lennon at Cypriot side Omonoia Nicosia. The reunion didn’t last long and not long after Neil was sacked Gary joined UAE side Gulf United where he is still playing his football currently.

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There is still many who question his decision to leave the club when he did, and I tend to agree. Gary chased the riches and exposure of the English Premier League, as was his right, but was it the right decision?

In the end, no. If he stayed at Celtic maybe for another year or two he could have earned a move to a bigger club than Norwich. We will never know, does Gary regret it? Only he can answer that. Anyway that doesn’t take away the service he gave to the club, he was a fantastic player who is always welcome back at Celtic Park.

  • June 25, 2023