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Lennon tips Hooper for England cap

Celtic manager Neil Lennon is tipping Gary Hooper for an England call-up after the striker scored four goals in their League Cup match on Wednesday.

The Celts defeated First Division Raith Rovers 4-1 at Parkhead, with the former Scunthorpe United frontman netting all four goals in a lethal display of finishing.

The 24-year-old has been prolific in front of goal ever since he joined the Scottish Premier League champions in 2010 and his latest heroics took his goal tally to 58 from just 97 appearances for the club.

Lennon believes Hooper’s game has reached a level where he is now worthy of selection by England boss Roy Hodgson for his nation’s World Cup 2014 qualifying campaign.

“In Hooper we have a phenomenal player,” Lennon told reporters at the post-match press conference.

“If you look at his record, he does score a lot of goals and it is the hardest thing to do, and he scores in the big games.

“But it is not just his goals – his play in general is of a very high standard. He is a good footballer, an intelligent footballer, very quick over five or 10 yards and his touch is sublime at times.

“He has led the line brilliantly for us this season and I think he is good enough to play for England.

“At times he has had to play a little bit differently, particularly in Europe but all those aspects are building up to him being the all-round striker that he is.

“He thrives on goals, obviously, but his link-up play is fantastic and he is developing very well.”

Hooper’s goals ensured there were no dramas in Lennon’s side reaching the last eight of the League Cup, with a pivotal seven days now facing them.

This weekend Celtic play SPL leaders Motherwell at Fir Park before they face a trip to Russia where they will play Spartak Moscow in the Champions League.

Lennon used the clash with Rovers to bring key midfielders Beram Kayal and Joe Ledley – neither of whom had played since August due to ankle and groin injuries respectively – back into the team.

He said: “It was always the plan to give Beram an hour and give Joe half an hour so thankfully they came through that unscathed and will be fit for the weekend.

“Lassad Nouioui and Miku will be fit as well and Georgios Samaras isn’t far away either so we are at almost at a full quota coming in to a big stretch of games.”

Wed 26 September, 2012
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