Gary Hooper at Celtic – What might have been

Since Henrik Larsson tearfully trudged off the Celtic Park pitch for the last time in the Hoops nearly twenty years ago, we’ve not seen a striker who compares to the King of Kings. Not even close, but we have had some fantastic ones.

From Craig Bellamy, Scott McDonald Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, Robbie Keane, Gary Hooper, Moussa Dembele, Odssone Edouard and presently Kyogo. All talented players but not as good as Henrik himself.

31 Oct 2001: Henrik Larsson of Celtic celebrates his penalty kick during the Champions League game between Celtic and Juventus at Celtic Park, Photo Laurence Griffiths/ALLSPORT

One man that maybe doesn’t get the credit as some of the others is Gary Hooper, Gary was a fantastic player and had everything a modern day striker needs to succeed in the game. Right foot, left foot, he could finish with both. He wasn’t bad in the air, he could hold the ball up, he had strength and pace and more importantly he knew were the goal was. He could finish alright, 82 goals for the club in 138 games over a four year period testifies to that.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – FEBRUARY 20: Gary Hooper of Celtic celebrates after scoring his first goal during the  Premier League match between Celtic and Rangers at Celtic Park on February 20, 2011 . (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Gary was signed by Neil Lennon from Scunthorpe United for a fee of £2.4 million in July 2010. Gary had played all his football in the lower reaches of English football so he was taking a step up in joining Celtic and by parting with such a big fee, Neil Lennon was obviously convinced of his talents.

Neil was right and Gary quickly settled into life as a Celtic player and did what he done best, score goals. In his four year stay he banged in 82 goals and won four major honours. Scoring a brace in the 2013 Scottish cup final win. He won the Scottish premier league golden boot in 2012 and was the clubs top scorer in three seasons of his four year stay.

Gary Hooper of Celtic celebrates after scoring during the Premier League match between Celtic and Hearts at Celtic Park on May 13, 2012. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

He also proved himself in the European scene, scoring goals in both the Champions League and Europa league group stages. Gary was the real deal. Indeed at one point he had the fourth best strike rate in Europe just behind names like Leo Messi Cristiano Ronaldo and Antonio Di Natale.

Gary like most players had a burning desire to play for his country and he was good enough to play for the three lions, but like most English players up north, he wasn’t deemed worthy of a place due to the ignorance the English have for our game.

Gary decided to move to the EPL in pursuit of his International ambitions and joined Norwich City for £5 million in 2014. Despite finishing as top scorer with 8 goals he couldn’t stop Norwich being relegated and his hopes of being picked for England were also dead in the water.

It’s also worth noting that by scoring in the EPL Gary become the first and still is the only player to score in all of England’s top four divisions, the Scottish top flight, both domestic cups, the Champions League and Europa League group stages, a wonderful feat indeed.

Gary Hooper of Celtic celebrates with team mates after scoring the first goal during the Premier League match between Celtic and Rangers at Celtic Park on October 24, 2010 (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

He would later join Sheffield Wednesday before going to New Zealand to play for A league side Wellington Phoenix, then spells at Indian super League side Kerala Blasters, before being reunited with Neil Lennon at Cypriot side Omonoia Nicosia. The reunion didn’t last long and not long after Neil was sacked Gary joined UAE side Gulf United where he is still playing his football currently.

There is still many who question his decision to leave the club when he did, and I tend to agree. Gary chased the riches and exposure of the English Premier League, as was his right, but was it the right decision?

Gary Hooper of Celtic celebrates with Giorgios Samaras and Victor Wanyama after scoring during the UEFA Champions League Play Off Round between Celtic and Helsingborgs IF, at Celtic Park on August 29, 2012. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

In the end, no. If he stayed at Celtic maybe for another year or two he could have earned a move to a bigger club than Norwich. We will never know, does Gary regret it? Only he can answer that. Anyway that doesn’t take away the service he gave to the club, he was a fantastic player who is always welcome back at Celtic Park.

JustAnOrdinaryBhoy – follow on Twitter @ordinarybhoy

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About Author

An ordinary everyday Celtic supporters hailing and still residing in Govan in the shadows of the enemy. I’m a season ticket holder. I Witnessed my first Celtic game in 1988 and have attended when I can ever since. Growing up in the 90s I witnessed Celtic at their lowest, and now appreciate the historic success we enjoy today. I enjoy writing about this wonderful football club and hopefully will continue to do so. I’ve always been a keen writer and initially started this a hobby. My ambition is to one day become as good an author as my fellow Celtic Star colleagues.


  1. Martin Blackshaw on

    While I am sure it is unintentional, the use of the term “king of kings” to describe Henrik Larsson borders on blasphemy. There is only one King of kings recorded in history – Our Lord Jesus Christ. Henrik Larsson, however good a player he was, is a million miles away from that divine status. Please try to remember this in future when writing of this admittedly great footballer. He is a human being, not God!