Gary Hooper born in Essex on January 26th 1988 started his playing career with non-league side Grays Athletic, and after moving to Southend United on a costless transfer in 2006, he had loan spells with League One side Leyton Orient and League Two side Hereford United, scoring well for all clubs including the short loan spells, he was then sold in 2008 to Championship side Scunthorpe United for £175,000 where he scored 43 goals in 73 appearences and earned him a £2.4 million move to Glasgow giants Celtic two years later. In this short time Hooper has went through the lower leagues in England with great success, in fact on his final season with Scunthorpe his goals to games ratio and some would say all round play was better than that of one £35 million Andy Carroll who played in the same league at that time, and now that Hooper has been continuing his phenomenal goal scoring ability with the current SPL champions Celtic for two years, we can see the key to his success and indeed Celtic’s success is his goals and link-up play with his fellow striker.
In Gary Hooper’s first season with Celtic his performances earned him a Scottish cup winner’s medal, a spot in the PFA team of the year and nominated for the player of theyear, narrowly missing out on that award to team-mate Emilio Izaguirre, Hooper scored 22 goals in 36 appearances in 2010/11 and had the best strike rate of any forward in Britain and fourth over all in Europe behind only Ronaldo, Messi and Di Natale. Hooper scored the opening goal on his Glasgow derby debut that season although Celtic lost that particular game 3-1, it was clear and also from scoring against Braga in the champions league qualifier that this young Essex lad would fit in quite well in Glasgow. Two weeks after his goal against Rangers Celtic played Aberdeen at Celtic Park where hat-tricks from Gary Hooper and Anthony Stokes helped Celtic to a SPL record 9-0 victory, this game showed just how well Hooper and Stokes could play together and aswell as scoring he liked to help out with the assists.
The 20th of February brought another Glasgow derby and another reason for the Celtic fans to sing Hooper’s name 2 goals and a fine perfomance in this 3-0 win, seen the fans get excited every time Hooper and Celtic touched the ball, if it wasn’t clear already Celtic had made quite a discovery and Hooper was on his way to becoming somewhat of a hero to the fans. Hooper’s second season with Celtic brought even more out of the player and the club, 49 appearences and 29 goals which earned him the golden boot award as top goal scorer in the country and a league winner’s medal as Celtic regained the title from their rivals. Hooper managed another couple of goals against Celtic’s city rivals this season and he also enjoyed a Europa League campaign this time around scoring against French outfit Rennes and Italian side Udinese in what most people would consider a Champions League group with Athletico Madrid making up the group.
The final league game of the 2011/12 season could arguably be Hooper’s greatest ever (so far) he scored all 5 in a 5-0 win over Hearts at Celtic Park before being presented with the SPL trophy. With these great perfomances brings not only a higher value, but great respect and the Celtic fans certainly have that for Gary Hooper, some would like him to wear the beloved number 7 jersey worn by greats such as Henrik Larsson and Jimmy Johnstone, however Hooper chose 88 as its the year of both his birth and Celtic, and now he can be forever known by the fans as Celtic’s greatest ever number 88. So having gone from Confrence League to Champions League, it is clear this young striker has many great years ahead of him to become a true hero to all Celtic fans. Neil Lennon is about to open contract talks with Hooper who still has two years left to run, and with ambitions of one day playing for the likes of Barcelona, both he and the Celtic fans will be looking for further development as a player, a decent run in Europe and some good personal perfomances from the English man, and with that we shall see what the future hold for Gary Hooper the super Celt.