Gary Hooper (born 26 January 1988) is an English footballer who plays as a striker for Premier League club Norwich City.
Hooper started his career at non-League Grays Athletic in 2003. While there he won the 2004-05 Conference South, as well as the FA Trophy twice in 2005 and 2006. After this, Championship club Southend United signed him on a free transfer in 2006. He was loaned out twice by the club, on a three month loan to League One club Leyton Orient in 2007 and a six month loan to League Two club Hereford United in 2008. Scunthorpe United signed him in 2008, for a fee of £175,000. After two years he was signed by Scottish Premier League side Celtic for £2.4 million. In his first season with the club he was the top scorer and also won the 2011 Scottish Cup.
Hooper was born in England but has not represented the national team at any level. In March 2011 it was thought that he may be eligible to represent Scotland. However, this possibility was later closed off. Since his move to Celtic he has been considered for England duty and was called up to the under-21 squad for a friendly but had to pull out due to injury. He was then included in the provisional squad for the 2011 European Under-21 Football Championship but did not go to the tournament.
Hooper joined the Tottenham Hotspur youth team at the age of seven. When he was 14 he played 20 minutes of a trial game and was then released by the club. After this he had trials with Northampton Town and Luton Town. These proved unsuccessful and he started playing Sunday league football. He then had a short spell with Maldon Town, before he was signed by Conference National side Grays Athletic at the start of the 2003–04 season.
Hooper joined Isthmian Premier side Grays Athletic, in the 2003–04 season, being named as an unused substitute in an Essex Senior Cup clash against Braintree Town whilst he was still 15 years old.
His debut was the following season when Grays were promoted into the newly formed Conference South, helping them to win the league by scoring 12 goals in 29 league appearances. He started for Grays in the 2004–05 FA Trophy Final against Hucknall Town, but was substituted off towards the end of extra-time. The match went to penalties and Grays won the shoot-out 6–5.
The following season in the Conference National, Hooper scored eight times in 40 league appearances. He was an unused substitute in Grays Athletic's 2–0 triumph over Woking in the final of the 2006 FA Trophy. At the end of the 2006 season he was released by Grays. Hooper said that he was only getting substitute appearances for the last few minutes of games and that he wanted to move.
In July 2006, after his release by Grays, Hooper went on two trials. Firstly to League Two side Barnet, then to Championship club Southend United, where he was given a one-year contract by Southend manager Steve Tilson the following month. On 24 October, Hooper scored twice in a 3–1 League Cup win over Leeds United. He went on to make 18 appearances for Southend in the Championship, although only two were starts. On 15 March, Hooper joined League One side Leyton Orient on loan for the rest of the season. Tilson said that this loan would allow him to assess whether Hooper merited a new contract and would give the young striker experience. Hooper was recalled from loan on 1 May before, already relegated, Southend's last match of the season. A number of players were out injured for the match and five days after his recall Hooper started in the 4–1 defeat to Southampton.
Hooper made 18 appearances, in League One, for Southend during the first half of the 2007–08 season, scoring twice. On 28 January 2008, Hooper signed a new 18-month contract to extend his stay with the club. He then moved on loan to League Two club Hereford United.
At the start of the 2008–09 season. Hooper, along with three other strikers, was listed for transfer as Tilson looked to re-build his attack. Hereford had a bid accepted for Hooper after his successful loan spell, but could not afford to match the larger transfer fees offered by other teams. Several other League One sides were interested in him. Cheltenham Town had a bid accepted but Hooper eventually decided to move to Scunthorpe United. He scored just four goals in 44 appearances during his time at Southend. Although he did have two successful loan spells.
Leyton Orient (loan)
Two days after joining the club he scored in a 2–2 draw with Oldham Athletic after coming on as a substitute. A week later, he scored against League One leaders Scunthorpe United in another 2–2 draw. Hooper made two more appearances for Orient before being recalled to Southend on 1 May, when the club activated a 24-hour return clause in his contract. Orient manager Martin Ling said that he thought Hooper had done well during his loan spell with the club and that he would monitor the progress of the young striker
Hereford United (loan)
On 28 January 2008, Hooper signed a one-month loan deal with League Two side Hereford United. He made his debut two days after signing for them. Starting in a 2–1 loss to Barnet. He scored in his next game for the club, a 1-0 win over Rotherham United. He played five more times, scoring four goals, before his loan deal was due to expire on 28 February. However, manager Graham Turner agreed a deal to keep him until the end of the season. Southend manager Steve Tilson agreed to this despite having two strikers out injured at the time. Hooper's 11 goals in 19 appearances for Hereford helped them finish third in League Two and secure promotion
On 14 July 2008, Scunthorpe United signed Hooper for a fee of £125,000, rising to £175,000. Hooper signed a three-year contract with the League One club. In the first game of Scunthorpe's league campaign, Hooper scored in a 2–1 defeat at Glanford Park against Leeds United. He scored his first ever hat-trick against Brighton on 6 September and netted seven goals in his first seven games to help Scunthorpe's promotion push. After this teammate Izzy Iriekpen paid tribute to Hooper saying that "As soon as he started training you could see there was something special there." On 28 October, league leaders Scunthorpe suffered their first defeat in 12 games as they lost 3–0 to Oldham Athletic. Hooper came off with an injury in this match and it was feared he had broken his foot and may have been out injured for up to six months. However, scans later revealed that his foot was just badly bruised. He was labelled in the media as the latest from Scunthorpe's "production line for talented young forwards." He scored both goals in a win over promotion rivals Millwall on 31 January 2009. Scunthorpe reached the final of the Football League Trophy and faced, League Two, Luton Town. Hooper scored the opener but Luton pulled it back to win the match 3–2 in extra-time. At the end of the season, Hooper won Scunthorpe's Player of the Year award. He declared himself delighted with the team's performance during the season, in which he scored 24 league goals to help Scunthorpe gain promotion. He then set himself a target of 15 Championship goals for the next season. He scored 30 goals in all competitions throughout the 2008–09 season, just three goals short of Billy Sharp's record 33 goals in a season for Scunthorpe.
At the start of the 2009–10 season, Queens Park Rangers had a £1 million rejected for Hooper. Coventry City were also rumoured to be interested in the striker. On 15 August, Hooper scored twice in a 3–2 win over Derby County. Scunthorpe manager Nigel Adkins said that he thought Hooper was a "massive threat" to the opposition and that he was worried that other teams would try to sign him before the end of the transfer window. On 22 February, captain Cliff Byrne, described Hooper as the kind of striker who could "create something out of nothing". He also stated that he hoped Hooper would stay at the club but if he did leave it would be for a lot of money. This was just after Hooper had scored in a 2–2 draw with Watford, taking his seasonal tally to 13. He scored a hat-trick against Bristol City on his return from a groin injury on 17 April 2010 and added a further two goals at Doncaster Rovers a week later. He scored 20 goals in 39 appearances in all competitions in the 2009–10 season, including 19 in 35 in the league, where he finished as third-top goal scorer behind Peter Whittingham and Nicky Maynard who both scored 20
On 26 July 2010, Scottish Premier League club Celtic signed Hooper for £2.4 million. This move completed his "meteoric rise" from non-league football to one of Europe's top clubs. Only six seasons before he was playing in the Conference South but he progressed upwards, playing in every lower league division in England before earning his dream move to Celtic. This has provided him with great experience, despite his young age and has kept him grounded. He opted to wear the unusual number 88 shirt, representing both 1988, the year he was born, and 1888, the year Celtic were founded. On 4 August, he scored on his debut for the club, against Braga in the Champions League third qualifying round. He tore his calf muscle in a friendly against Blackburn Rovers on 8 August, which kept him out of action for almost six weeks. On 22 September 2010, Hooper made his return from injury in the League Cup scoring in a 6–0 victory over Inverness Caledonian Thistle. On 25 September, he made his SPL debut in a 2–1 victory over Hibernian at Celtic Park. He scored his first League goal on 2 October, in a 3–1 win over Hamilton Academical and then scored a double against Dundee United at Tannadice on 17 October. A week later, he scored the opening goal in a 3–1 defeat to Rangers at Celtic Park. On 6 November, Hooper and strike partner Anthony Stokes each scored hat-tricks in a league record 9–0 win over Aberdeen. The following week, he scored the winner against St. Mirren. After recovering from an injury that kept him out of action during the Christmas period, Hooper returned to the team against Hibernian on 15 January 2011 and scored the opening goal in a 3–0 win. On 1 February, Hooper scored the first goal in a 3–0 win against Aberdeen. He netted twice in Celtic's 3–0 victory over Rangers on 20 February. He grabbed another brace on 6 April 2011, in a 3–1 victory over Hibernian. Two weeks later, he had a man of the match performance against Kilmarnock, scoring a goal and setting up another three in a 4–0 SPL victory. On 1 May 2011, Hooper scored in a 4–1 victory over Dundee United. He then scored a brace against Hearts and the opener in a 4–0 win over Motherwell, in the final league match of the season. He was nominated for the PFA Player of the Year award, but lost out to teammate Emilio Izaguirre. Hooper was also picked in the PFA Team of the Year. He picked up his first medal for Celtic in the Scottish Cup after a 3–0 win over Motherwell in the final on 21 May 2011. During the 2010–11 season, Hooper had the best strike rate of any player in Britain, scoring 20 goals in 26 games with a strike rate of 0.77 goals per game. This was also the fourth best strike rate in Europe, behind Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Antonio Di Natale.
On 24 July 2011, Hooper had a penalty saved by Graham Stack in Celtic's first match of the 2011–12 season, a 2–0 win over Hibs. On 13 August, he scored his first goal of the season in a 5–1 win over Dundee United. He also picked up an ankle injury which ruled him out for the next two matches. On 25 August he made his return in Celtic's 3–1 loss to FC Sion. Three days later, he scored both goals in a 2–0 win over St. Mirren. English Premier League clubs Queens Park Rangers and Wolverhampton Wanderers expressed interest in signing him on transfer deadline day, however Celtic rejected their enquiries about his availability. Hooper's regular strike partner Stokes said "He's a top, top player. I have no doubt one day he could play at the very top level but we want to keep him here as long as possible." Hooper then started in Celtic's 2–0 loss to Atlético Madrid at the Vicente Calderón Stadium. Before scoring in Celtic's 4-2 loss to rivals Rangers on 18 September. This was his fourth goal in seven Old Firm matches He then started Celtic's first Scottish League Cup game of the season against Ross County, scoring one goal in a 2–0 win for Celtic. On 29 September he played in Celtic's 1–1 draw with Italian side Udinese. After three minutes he won a penalty which Ki Sung-Yueng scored. He then gave away a penalty, which was converted, after 83 minutes when he fouled Neuton. A month later, he scored in Celtic's 4–1, League Cup quarter-final, victory over Hibs. On 3 November, Hooper scored his first European goal of the season, netting the final goal of Celtic's 3-1 UEFA Europa League group stage win against Rennes, after coming on as a 78th minute substitute for James Forrest. Three days later, he again came on as a substitute and scored the winner in a 2–1 win over Motherwell. On 26 November, he scored a hat-trick in a 5–0 win over St. Mirren. After scoring five goals in November, he won the SPL Player of the Month award. On 15 December, Hooper scored in Celtic's final Europa League group game, a 1-1 draw against Udinese which meant Celtic finished third in the group and didn't qualify. During the January transfer window English Championship league leaders Southampton made several bids for Hooper. However, they were rejected by Celtic and Hooper reiterated his desire to stay with the club. On 14 January, Hooper scored in a 2-1 win over Dundee United. He then scored in Celtic's 4-0 win against Hearts on 8 February. On 29th April 2012, Hooper scored the final goal as Celtic beat Rangers 3 - 0 at Celtic Park. This was his fifth goal in 10 appearances against Rangers. On 13 May, Hooper scored all five goals for Celtic as they beat Herts 5-0 in the final SPL match of the season.
After Southampton had won promotion to the English Premier League there was speculation linking them with a £7m bid for Hooper at the start of the 2012-13 season. However Hooper stated that he was happy at Celtic and was looking forward to playing UEFA Champions League football. On 1 August 2012, Hooper started the season in scoring form, in Celtic's 2-0 victory against HJK Helsinki in the first leg of the Champions League Third Qualifying Round. On 25 September 2012, Hooper scored all 4 goals in Celtic's Scottish League Cup tie against Raith Rovers at Celtic Park, the match finished 4-1. On 29 September 2012, Hooper scored the first goal in a 2-0 victory over Motherwell at Fir Park, this resulted in Celtic going to first spot in the Scotish Premier League. Hooper scored his 7th goal in 4 matches, against Spartak Moscow in the UEFA Champions League; Celtic won the match 3-2 at Spartak Stadium(Moscow), recording their first ever away victory in the UEFA Champions League proper. In the January transfer window of 2013 Hooper was a transfer target for several English Premier League clubs, the main interest being from Norwich City who had three bids ranging from £4.5m to £7m rejected. Celtic clinched their second successive Scottish Premier League title on 21 April 2013 with a 4-1 win over Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Parkhead. Hooper scored twice in the game. On 26 May 2013 Hooper scored twice for Celtic in their 3-0 win over Hibernian in the Scottish Cup Final.
Norwich City - Premier League
On the 26th July 2013, Gary signed a three year contract with English Premier League club Norwich City for an undisclosed fee believed to be £5m with Norwich having the option of a futher year to Gary's contract. Gary made his competitive debut for Norwich on 21st September 2013 in a Premier League 1 - 0 loss to Aston Villa as a 63rd minute substitute. In his first start for the club, Gary scored a brace to secure a 3 - 2 victory over Watford in the third round of the League Cup on 24th September.
On 9th November 2013, Gary scored his first English Premier League goal from the penalty spot against West Ham United at Carrow Road to level the scores at 1 - 1. Norwich City won the game 3 - 1, with Gary being voted as Man of the Match. Due to this goal, he became the first player to score in the top 4 divisions of English league, the top division of the Scottish League and two cup competitions in each country, as well as the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League. Gary scored his second English Premier League goal and fourth goal in all competitions in just his seventh start for Norwich City, on 30th November 2013 against Crystal Palace, which Nrwich City won 1 - 0 for a vital 3 points.On 7th December, Gary scored his 5th Norwich City goal and his 3rd English Premier League goal against West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns, a first time angled shot across goalkeeper Boaz Myhill into the corner after a through ball from Leroy Fer, the match ended in a 0 - 2 Norwich City victory. On 15th December, Gary scored in consecutive English Premier League matches, the one-time Scunthorpe United frontman took one touch on his chest after a Johan Elmander lay off, before hitting a superb volley 30 yards out over Michel Vorm and into the roof of the net, levelling the score at 1 - 1. Gary would score again on the Boxing Day fixture against Fulham as his shot deflected off of Aaron Hughes and past goalkeeper David Stockdale, thus making Gary the first ever Norwich City player to score in 4 successive English Premier League matches at Carrow Road.
Gary has not represented England at any level. His paternal grandfather William Hooper was raised in the Scottish Borders and this led to hopes that Gary could be eligible to play for Scotland. Scotland head coach Craig Levein sought clarification as to the place of birth his grandfather's birth certificate recorded, as he had been born in a hospital in the English border town Berwick-upon-Tweed. The possibility was closed off when it was confirmed that his grandfather was included in the English Births Index. On 13 March 2011, Hooper was included by Stuart Pearce in his 31-man squad for the England under-21 team to play Denmark and Iceland. However, Gary was forced to pull out of the squad due to injury. On 3 May 2011, he was named in the 40-man provisional squad for the UEFA Under-21 Championship but did not make the final selection. In February 2012, it was confirmed the Welsh Football Association were investigating his eligibility for Wales. Hooper declared his desire to play for the Great Britain Olympic football team at the 2012 London Olympics.
In November 2012, Gary was set to join team mate Fraser Foster in the England squad for their upcoming friendly against Sweden in Stockholm, after it was revealed the Football Association had contacted Celtic about the fitness of Gary, they were handed a bleak prognosis by the Celtic medical team, meaning Gary couldn't make the squad through injury.
Style of play
Hooper has all the main attributes to play as a striker, he is strong and can hold up the ball well. He is also a good finisher, he has been described as being a 'penalty box striker'. However, he can also pass the ball well and this allows midfielders to play off him. He has received praise since moving to Scotland. Newspaper The Daily Record described him as being one of the most skilled attackers in the SPL. They also said that he had shown that he could deal with the physical nature of the Scottish game, due to his ability to ride a challenge well. He is able to play the game at a very high tempo and has a very good first touch.
Since moving to Celtic, Hooper has struck up an excellent partnership with fellow striker Anthony Stokes. They scored over 40 goals between them in their first season together and are considered to be Celtic's best strike partnership. Although on many occasions, especially for big matches, Georgios Samaras has often been used alongside Hooper. Hooper has expressed his disappointment at this because he feels he works very well with Stokes. In their partnership Hooper usually has a more advanced role, he plays off the shoulder of the last defender, or in the box, and makes runs in behind. His strength, pace, finishing ability and awareness make him suitably adapted to this role. Stokes usually plays a deeper role, he comes short to get the ball and creates space through his dribbling skill and passing. Although Hooper is more suited to an advanced role, and Stokes to a deeper one, they are capable of switching and both have the skills required to play in either role. This makes it very hard for defenders to mark them.
Grays Athletic Conference South: 2004–05
FA Trophy: 2004–05, 2005–06
Hereford United Football League Two Promotion: 2007–08 (3rd place)
Scunthorpe Football League One Playoffs: 2008–09
Celtic Scottish Premier League (2): 2011–12, 2012-13
Scottish Cup (2): 2010–11, 2012 - 13
Scunthorpe United Player of the Year: 2008 - 09
Scunthorpe United Top Goalscorer (2): 2008 - 09, 2009 - 2010
Suunthorpe United Greatest Ever Player: 2012
Celtic Top Goalscorer (3): 2010 - 11, 2011 - 12, 2012 - 13
Scottish Premier League Player of the Month (2): November 2011, January 2013
Scotish Premier League Golden Boot: 2011 - 12
SPFA SPL Team of the Year (2): 2010 - 11, 2011 - 12