Gary Hooper says that he knew after not being involved in the Play-Off Final that he wasn’t going to play much of a part in Alex Neil’s Premier League plans.
The former Celtic man scored 18 goals in 64 appearances for City and moved to Sheffield Wednesday on loan before Christmas, making the move permanent in January where he has scored 11 times in 30 appearances.
Not being involved at Wembley was the final straw for Hoops though.
‘I knew then that I had to get out on loan,” he says. “Alex Neil didn`t say I wasn`t going to play but he did buy a couple of strikers so the message was pretty clear. It wasn`t the best couple of years, but I don`t regret it.
“I loved my time at Celtic. It was the highlight of my career. Champions League, Europa League, Old Firm games. For a lad who started his career at Grays Athletic it was a dream. The Scottish League doesn`t register in England. I was top scorer three years running up there. I scored against Spartak Moscow, home and away. But apart from that once, the England manager never watched me.”
Hooper made only two Premier League appearances as late substitutes this season but he did score six goals in 32 Premier League appearances under former Norwich chief Chris Hughton back in 2013/14, just one behind that season’s top scorer Robert Snodgrass.
“It was frustrating,” he said, talking to the League Paper. “It`s such a hard league and Norwich were struggling (that season). We basically defended for 60-70 minutes of every game and that generally meant playing 4-5-1.
“It was hard enough to get on the pitch, and even if you did it was hard to get on the ball. I scored six goals from hardly starting in a team that didn`t make many chances so I`m not unhappy with what I did. Do I see myself as a Premier League player? Yeah, I do. I`ve proved it.”
Hooper’s new side will confirm their play-off place if they don’t lose in Saturday’s game against Cardiff, who are the only side capable of stopping them from finishing in the play-off places.
I always thought that Hooper was very much a player who would score if you gave him the chances but he clearly needed a bigger strike partner as well. Other than that, his work rate wasn’t enough to play as a lone striker in the 4-5-1 so often used.
Neither Hughton or Alex Neil fancied being much more adventurous in the Premier League than the player himself describes. I’ve no doubt Hooper is a finisher but even if he does go up with The Owls, he won’t be much more effective, in my opinion.