Neil Lennon played with some great Celtic strikers and knows what it takes to make the mark in the toughest position on the park.
After the heroics of Henrik Larsson, Chris Sutton and John Hartson the standards were raised but performances- and goals- against Rangers will always be the test of a Celtic striker.
In three games Gary Hooper has scored three times against Walter Smith’s side with yesterday’s double highlighting everything about the strikers ability.
Hooper showed a fantastic first touch to leave Davie Weir for dead before slotting the ball under Alan McGregor for the opening goal then raced from his own half to connect with Emilio Izaguirre’s pass to double Celtic’s lead.
The name of Scunthorpe doesn’t feature much in Celtic’s history but Hooper is shaping up as Lennon’s most significant signing.
“Gary has always been a good player,” the Celtic boss admitted. “This was a pressure game for everyone and a big one in the context of the title.
“Hooper is a really good footballer, he showed a great first touch for his first goal. That took him away from Weir and once he got in you always fancied him to score.
“He also made up some ground for the second goal. That was a beautiful goal. There was some great movement and Hooper was there to finish off Izaguirre’s first time cross.
“Hooper is only 22 so let’s give him a bit of time to see how his career progresses. We can all see what an all round player he is- he’s more than just a goalscorer.”
Hooper’s combination of speed, bulk and eye for goal make him unique.
Not since Henrik Larsson have Celtic had a striker with such all round qualities.
Maciej Zurawski and to a greater extent Scott McDonald delivered the goods to win Celtic titles but it wasn’t hard to find critics of their style.
I’ve not heard any criticism of Hooper from a Celtic supporter with the striker happy to keep things as simple off the park as he does with the ball at his feet.
“My first touch made the opening goal then I put it through the keeper’s legs,” the striker explained. “The second one was a great move down the left and I slid in to put it in.
“We feel the confidence, it’s everywhere right now. We kept the ball well out there and didn’t give them many opportunities.
“It was a perfect result and performance. We kept a clean sheet and scored goals, which is what we knew we had to do. We all feel we’re performing well right now.
“The confidence is coming from the gaffer. He’s just telling us to go out there and enjoy it and just win. We didn’t want to leave anything out on the park.”