The Monday Profile: Gary Hooper

Posted by on Apr 25, 2010 in The Monday Profile | 8 Comments

“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife” proclaims the most famous book in history, but try telling that to the 23 sinners that will make up next year’s Championship clubs. It’s been a rum season where midfielders such as Peter Whittingham, Darren Ambrose, Charlie Adam, Gylfi Sigurðsson and Kevin Nolan populate the upper reaches of the hit parade, but it’s conventional striker Gary Hooper who is now the man firmly etched on everyone’s shopping list for next season. Few neutrals regretted Scunthorpe’s survival but many will see an opportunity to prise the Essex born forward away from Glanford Park now that proceedings are almost over.

That Hooper is a product of that especially verdant footballer-producing territory, the Thames delta should come as no surprise. Grays Athletic are something of a johnny-come-lately club in non-league terms, but the endless marshlands in which they are situated have provided ample in the way of soccer graduates down the years. Hooper may not follow the estuarine likes of John Terry, Terry Venables and (perhaps) Bobby Zamora into the England team, but no alumnus of the London Thames Gateway region should be ignored.

That said, Hooper needed to leave the South East to make his name and it was a loan spell at Hereford where he netted 11 goals in 19 games that brought him to notice. Scunny swooped and 43 strikes in 79 matches has been the result. But Hooper ain’t just a big lad enjoying a purple run of form, he’s a very rapid, mobile front man who reminds me slightly of Charlton’s Nicky Forster in his younger days. The past few weeks have seen him hit higher standards than ever and his hat trick against Bristol City will go down in the annals of the county of Lincolnshire.
A move seems inevitable and Scunthorpe simply cannot afford to turn down a likely fee of around £2 million. Derby have been long time linked but it’s hard to think of a club who would not relish the use of his services in 2010-11. Perhaps a return south to Queen’s Park Rangers, Reading or Bristol City, among the few clubs reckoned to have even moderate spending power would make sense. That will be tough on his current employers but Nigel Adkins’ cheery good sense is a votewinner with the Iron and he’ll be trusted to recruit well in a bid to keep the claret and blue banners ahoist.
Rob Langham
Rob Langham (pen name: Lanterne Rouge) is co-founder of the defiantly non-partisan football league blog, The Two Unfortunates, a website that occasionally strays into covering issues of wider importance. He's 47 and lives in Oxford while retaining his boyhood support of Reading FC. He tweets as @twounfortunates and has written for a number of websites and publications including The Football Attic, The Inside Left, When Saturday Comes, In Bed with Maradona, Futbolgrad and The Blizzard as well as being nominated for the Football Supporters' Federation Blogger of the Year Award in 2013.

7 Comments

  1. Lloyd
    April 26, 2010

    To my shame, I've never seen Hooper play but his record is indeed excellent.

    He will definitely leave Glanford Park, although clubs may be wary of picking up the next Simon Cox or Billy Sharp (post-Scunny, but pre-Donny).

    However, for all the talk of belt-tightening and reduced fees, there's bound to be at least one club willing to take a gamble.

    For what it's worth, Scunny ought to be ok without him. They fared pretty well when he was out recently, beating Argyle fairly easily for one. It's not inconceivable to think that Nigel Adkins already has another gem lined up. Bournemouth's Brett Pitman, maybe? The fun begins…

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  2. Ben
    April 27, 2010

    He's definitely going to be in demand – likewise Nicky Maynard at Bristol City. Given that Southampton haven't gone up, I wouldn't be surprised to see one of the bigger Championship clubs try to recruit Ricky Lambert too. The second tier might be a step too far for Pitman – probably better off going up to League One with the Cherries.

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  3. scarf
    April 27, 2010

    Interesting. I remember Hooper when he was with Southend and he really was no great shakes. He was decent at Hereford – no more – despite the 11 goals in 19 games. I certainly remember him doing absolutely nothing against us (Stockport) when we played Hereford a couple of years back. It seems he's found the right environment now, though, and is doing really well for himself. Whether he's got hte quality to operate in a side where he's not the main man though and more is expected of him, we shall see.

    As for Lamberto – yes, he's a good finisher with good anticipation and creativity, but he lacks the mobility and the pace to play much higher than he does at present. For how much he'd cost I wouldn't go near him.

    Pittman's an interesting player – very much a confidence player who needs the arm round the shoulder, so I hear. He's doing well being the main man at Bournemouth and I think he should stay as the big fish in the little pond at least for a while – remember, he's still only a kid.

    Billy Sharp is a good Championship striker and is showing that now at Donny. He never really got a chance at Sheff U and I don't blame him for what happened there at all.

    The ones I'd be looking out for from the lower leagues are Adam Lallana at Southampton, Troy Deeney at Walsall and Lee Barnard, also at Saints, all of whom I reckon will do very well next season, whichever club they're at. I also wouldn't be surprised to see Adam Le Fondre make the step up to League 1, though whether he's aware enough to be a success at a higher level we'll have to wait and see.

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  4. Chris
    April 27, 2010

    After three games last season in which Hooper and Hayes laid waste to the Millwall defence, I was glad to see the back of him. I have not been surprised to see him scoring in the Championship this year, as his pace and movement really set him apart in League 1. Having said that, it is clear that the presence of Paul Hayes has helped him immensely, so it would be interesting to see if he could replicate his form at a bigger club.

    Scarf, agree with your analysis of Lambert. Even if he was available, to spend more than £1m for a 28-year old forward with no pace would seem profligate. Lallana is a different matter: comfortable operating up-front or across the midfield and a good finisher to boot. If he does move on, it'll be to the Premier League.

    A couple of others that may be worth a punt:

    Chris Martin (Norwich) – Grant Holt has won all the plaudits for his 20+ goals, but Martin isn't far behind him and is the more creative of the two.

    Simeon Jackson (Gillingham) – Very small, which might put some off, but he has pace and a good finish to make up for it. Has continued to score goals in a struggling side and would be worth a go for a bottom-half Championship club, especially as Gills need the cash.

    Even further down, Richard Brodie at York City appears to have the attributes for a league career. Strong, a decent finisher and young enough to learn, he's already been linked with Huddersfield and I can see him being Nigel Adkins' gem for next year.

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  5. Lanterne Rouge
    April 27, 2010

    I saw Chris Martin on loan for Luton last season and he was petulance personified. I am surprised by the Norfolk hellraiser's progress this year, although he plays in a decent side of course. I think Jackson is a good shout too.

    As for Lallana, even last season, he was attarcting good reviews – but will ne go the same way as Andrew Surman? Benchwarming higher up the food chain?

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  6. Chris
    April 27, 2010

    Martin does have a reputation as a bit of handful. But, then again, so did another Norwich City old boy (http://www.ex-canaries.co.uk/players/bellamy.htm). And look how valuable he has become.

    If he was to be sold this summer, it's possible he'd end up in one of those Recaro car seats they have at Premier League grounds. I'd fancy his chances of getting a game at Fulham or a club of that stature. Plus, Saints fans I speak to were never as enamoured of Surman as his write-ups would suggest.

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  7. scarf
    April 27, 2010

    Different types of players too, of course. Lallana is an attacking player whereas Surman is more a central midfielder – you bring attackers off the bench if you're struggling but it's not so much the case with central midfielders. I think Lallana will be at Southampton next season as they win the L1 title, anyway.

    Talking of lower league strikers, I look forward to Jermain Beckford becoming the Izale McLeod of the Premier League next season. Not good enough for that level, not by a long chalk.

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