“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.