Unprofessional Foul


March 17, 2011

Hooper’s Gambit

No to the Prem? Hmm…

While heading north to play in the Scottish Premier League doesn’t always bode well for an English player’s chances to be noticed for national team selection, it might pay off for one Gary Hooper. The young striker made the move to SPL heavyweights Celtic rather than to a mid-table Premiership side apparently because he wanted to be playing for titles rather than fighting relegation.

But it looks like he’s also gunning for some recognition from Don Fabio too.

At one point, the 23 yr old thought he might qualify for the Scottish national team owing to a grandfather’s potential birthplace being just north of Hadrian’s Wall. Apparently, though, Papa Hoops was in fact English–which made Hooper eligible for his recent call-up by Stuart Pearce to the England U-21 squad.

So, with the original move to Scotland possibly intended more so to catch the eye of Craig Levein while he was scouting at Parkhead, it could turn out that Hooper has doomed himself to be overlooked for a senior call-up to the Three Lions. The Swede seems to have notoriously overlooked Englishmen playing in the SPL during his tenure and Capello’s most recent selections have all been plucked from the English leagues.

What is interesting to note, though, is that Capello dabbled outside the Premiership pool as of late. His November call-up of Jay Bothroyd from Championship side Cardiff City intimated that the Italian was willing to experiment–after kicking the flat tires on the Golden Generation during the World Cup, there frankly wasn’t much choice. Bothroyd only got a few minutes in that November friendly against France, having come on for Andy Carroll in the 72nd minute.

And Carroll’s the heart of the matter when it comes to Hooper’s potential England future. Where Bothroyd might be blocked by a healthy Carroll playing in the English system, Hooper doesn’t face the same tall stumbling block.

Hooper seems to be adjudged correct in making the move to the SPL–while Prem media fawn over England’s most expensive young player, Hooper’s exploits would have likely been drowned out if he was playing at a Blackpool, West Ham, or Fulham. Being the leading goal scorer for the league leader in a top division tends to give your successes a bit more column inches.

And scoring a brace in the Old Firm doesn’t hurt either. Scoring a brace over West Brom–meh.

If this path proves fruitful for the young lad, one has to wonder if other young English players with national team aspirations would do the same. Rather than troll around the Championship or at a smaller EPL club hoping the England manager notices you, why not have a go at either Celtic or Rangers?

Old Firm matches tend to garner media coverage from both sides of the border. Despite the SPL undergoing a bit of a crisis in quality both on the pitch and in the boardrooms, those two sides still play some European football from time to time. Capello had previously thrown down dictates that the players he would call upon for national duty had to be on form and playing in a quality league–at least of a higher quality than MLS apparently. So would Hooper’s success begin a migration of young English footballers up north?

As long as Premiership clubs keep buying up 16 yr olds from Spain or France to get them “Homegrown” eligible, it might.

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