On the 26th of July, Gary Hooper signed for Norwich for a fee in the region of £5.5 million (BBC). Hooper declared his move from Scottish champions Celtic “a dream”. Hooper has stated that his primary objective for leaving Celtic was to play at international level for England as he stated “you don’t really get a look in up there” when speaking of playing in Scotland and his chances of representing England.
Hooper has gained compliments from many well respected English managers including the very reputable Harry Redknapp who branded Hooper a “proven goalscorer”. Redknapp’s QPR side were on the verge of signing Hooper for a fee in the region of £5.5 million, similar to the fee in which Norwich paid for Hooper, however, their lethargic approach to contract negotiations with Hooper paved the way for Norwich to sign the English marksman on a three year deal. Moreover, many well regarded footballing personalities such as Chris Sutton – Ex-Celtic and Norwich player- believes that Hooper will live to regret his move to Norwich.
Firstly, it is without doubt that Gary Hooper, during his time at Celtic has built a reputation of being a predatory striker with a keen eye for goal. His 63 goals in 95 appearances for the Parkhead side emphasises how clinical Gary Hooper is in front of goal. Hooper’s goal-mouth, poacher style of play fits the rigid Scottish game perfectly. Scoring 31 goals last season for Celtic has sparked huge waves of interest from English clubs such as; Hull, QPR and Norwich. Celtic dominated the Scottish game this season by securing the league title at a canter with Hooper providing the spear-head of the deadly Celtic attack.
On the other hand, Sutton believes that Celtic dominance may have gave teams vying for Hooper’s signature a false sense of hope in Hooper’s ability at Premiership level. Sutton says “At Celtic he’d be playing in a team creating lots of chances but at Norwich he will have to take whatever chances come his way”. Clearly, Celtic did not face much opposition from other clubs during their league campaign, the same cannot be said for Norwich, who at one stage lost six games in a row. This shows that Hooper will have to become ever more clinical to replicate his form at Celtic as key-chances at Norwich will be at a premium compared to that at Celtic.
At Celtic, Gary Hooper was regarded as one of the first names on the team-sheet, giving him a perfect chance to maintain a healthy streak of form, paradoxically, at Norwich, Hooper may not be so certain of a first team place on such a regular basis. Since his reign at Norwich began, Chris Hughton has traditionally used the 4-4-1-1 system in which a tall target man plays as a lone striker but, Norwich have made a number of signings recently such as; Nathan Redmond, Leroy Fer and Martin Olsson who are all regarded as attack-minded players, this gives a hint that Norwich boss Chris Hughton may be changing from his usual style of play into a more flamboyant and energetic approach to the game, this suits Hooper to the ground.
Moreover, there is every chance that this new style of play doesn’t work for Hughton and may lead to him reverting back to his tried and trusted approach, if this is the case, Hooper may play second in line for the role of striker as this tactical approach to the game fits new £8.5 million summer signing Ricky Van Wolfswinkel perfectly. Therefore, if everything does not go to plan for Norwich in the early stages of the season, Hooper may find himself ousted from the squad, leaving him in no position to play for his country.
Therefore, Gary Hooper has taken a huge gamble in his pursuit of becoming an international footballer. He has left Celtic, a club in which he was well-regarded and loved to join Norwich, a club of considerably lower stature where it is possible that he may have to adapt his style of play to fit into the more physically challenging Premiership to have any chance of playing for England. Will his gamble pay off? Only time will tell.