Sheffield Wednesday: Gary Hooper closes in on Owls milestone

Gary Hooper
Gary Hooper

No player has scored more Championship goals in 2016 than Gary Hooper - and the Owls striker is on the brink of reaching a notable personal landmark.

Hooper could make his 50th Wednesday appearance when they travel to fourth-from-bottom Derby County this weekend.

Gary Hooper

Gary Hooper

The 28-year-old claimed his fourth goal of the campaign in Saturday’s victory over Queens Park Rangers and his 17th in Owls colours.

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It took Hooper, who initially joined Wednesday on loan from Norwich City last term, eight outings to open his account. He stepped up off the bench to grab a late consolation in the defeat at Milton Keynes Dons.

Between December and mid-February, Hooper registered 10 times in 11 matches.

His goals dried up in the final three months of the campaign but Hooper was still a key figure in the Owls qualifying for the Play-Off Final.

With head coach Carlos Carvalhal strengthening his strikeforce during the close-season, bringing in Steven Fletcher on a free transfer, Hooper has had to fight for his place. Carvalhal has regularly rotated his forward line to keep them fresh for the challenges that lie ahead, but Hooper has managed to chip in with four goals and is currently the club’s leading marksman.

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As Carvalhal has repeatedly stated, he does not care one jot who scores the goals - as long the team win.

The Portuguese chief was delighted with all his striker’s contributions at Hillsborough last weekend.

“Strikers are there to score goals but it is not just a question of goals,” Carvalhal told The Star. “Hooper, Fernando and Fletcher did fantastic team work again.

“They pressed and blocked QPR when they tried to build an attack.

“It is important they damage the dynamic of our opponents.

“They are not just there thinking that in the beginning of the game they are here just to score goals. No.

“They think, ‘I’m here, I have a role to do, I must do this when I don’t have the ball, if that guy goes there I must do this, or if he goes there I must do that and after, because of the dynamic they can score goals.

“It’s why all the time I say I am very happy about them. Score or not, I am very happy with all the strikers.”

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Carvalhal’s attacking options will only increase when Lucas Joao and Marco Matias recover from their injury problems. Joao has been on the sidelines since August 27 while Matias has not featured all season.

Carvalhal expects Joao to be back in the fold soon, having resumed training.

Wednesday’s defensive improvement has pleased Carvalhal too, with the team racking up three shut outs in their last five matches.

He said: “When we keep a clean sheet, it is not just a question of the defensive line. All the players must work hard to achieve it.”

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