Neil Lennon: Griffiths not yet at level of Hooper

Gary Hooper was a prolific goalscorer at Celtic Park. Picture: Jane Barlow
Gary Hooper was a prolific goalscorer at Celtic Park. Picture: Jane Barlow
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THEY are two of the most prolific Celtic strikers since Henrik Larsson said farewell to Parkhead, so comparisons between Leigh Griffiths and Gary Hooper are easy to make.

However, for former Hoops boss Neil Lennon, the man who had the privilege to manage both players, the current star still has some ways to go to reach the level of his predecessor.

Lennon brought both players to Parkhead in a successful four-year spell with the club, where the former player won two league titles and led the club to the knockout stages of the Champions League, a campaign that included the famous 2-1 win over Barcelona.

Hooper played a big part in the Champions League success, netting four goals in that campaign, and over the course of his Celtic career he more than justified the £1.5 million transfer fee paid to Scunthorpe for his services. He was eventually sold for £6 million to Norwich.

Fans’ favourite Griffiths is on the road to emulating some of Hooper’s success, currently holding a better scoring rate than Hooper in the Ladbrokes Premiership. But for Lennon he still has a little bit more developing to do before he can reach Hooper’s level.

Lennon, speaking in new book Celtic: Keeping The Faith, said: “[Leigh] is a natural goalscorer and you can’t coach that. His movement is always very good.

“He’s got a bit of the devil in him – you don’t want to coach that out because some players need that, it helps them play with an edge. He’s been consistent wherever he’s and we had no qualms about signing him.

“We were very happy with his contribution. We only worked with him for about five months.

“He’s maybe not at the level of Hooper but is without doubt a quality finisher and one you could work with and make better.

“I’ve got a lot of time for him and I’m glad things are going well now at Celtic. There’s no reason to think otherwise, he’s a good kid.”

Lennon made a number of impressive buys during his time in charge, including Virgil van Dijk, Fraser Forster and Victor Wanyama, and there’s no doubt Hooper belongs alongside such illustrious company.

Lennon continued: “He was unknown when we got him from Scunthorpe, we developed him and he turned out to be one of the best Celtic players of the last 25 years. It didn’t surprise me that when he got into that position, he would score, he’s a natural.

“We got him for £1.5m and sold him for £6m – we did something right there.”

• Extract taken from Celtic: Keeping the Faith