The last seven months have seen Norwich fans endure the dull and uninspiring Gary Hooper transfer saga, but it finally looks like Chris Hughton has got his man – the Celtic forward is reportedly undertaking a medical today. But will Hooper be worth the time invested and be a hit in the Premier League?
Gary Hooper moves from north of the border, where he enjoyed yearly success both personally and on a team level with Celtic. The English striker won the Scottish Premier League and Scottish Cup both twice, whilst scoring more goals than any other SPL player in total over the three seasons he spent at Celtic.
Hooper has been a proven goal scorer at Celtic and Scunthorpe, where he scored 50 goals in 95 games, and finished last season on an impressive 31 goals in all competitions (4 of which came in Celtic’s run to the Champions League knockout stages) – an average of a goal every 135 minutes.
It is likely that Chris Hughton will adapt the system used last season to improve Norwich’s attacking play. The system, which forced Grant Holt to move into the channels and prevent him from getting into goal scoring positions that he had previously, uses a lone striker coming deep for the ball and working for the team. Hooper would comfortably fit into this updated system.
At Celtic, the striker played a similar role and was lauded by fans for his ability to hold the ball and attribute to attacking moves – something which resulted in him assisting 21 goals during his time in Scotland. The forward also possess clever movement in the final third as he looks to find space, most commonly in the six yard box, before connecting onto a low cross from the supporting wingers, a position that Norwich have talent in a abundance, or a through ball from midfield.
The standard of quality in the SPL has always been questioned by fans of English clubs, and without the riches of a multi-million TV deal, it is not surprising to see why. This doesn’t mean the league excludes top players; for every couple of Kris Boyds, you get a Henrik Larrson or Mikel Arteta.
A more recent example of a striker moving from the SPL to the Premier League is Nikica Jelavic. The Croatian showed a lot of promise on his move to Everton in January 2012 as he scored 9 goals in 13 games, yet struggled with poor form last season to finish with 7 goals in 37 games. With this mind, it will be more interesting to see how Hooper copes in the English top flight in the long-term, rather than how his Norwich career begins.
As a Norwich fan myself, I’ve been a little apprehensive about the money that has been touted for Hooper since the interest began in January, with talk of a £10m asking price. With only one more year left on his Celtic contract though, a deal of £5m has been agreed between the clubs. Considering the current English premium you have to pay for players, the amount isn’t too bad.
With experience of playing in Europe against some of the best teams in the world, Hooper’s game has developed and looks well-suited for Norwich and the Premier League. Hooper can score goals and his record proves that. Whether he can continue this depends on if the forward can adapt his game to the tougher defences that will not give him as much space in the box or time on the ball.
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