The former Norwich City, Celtic star scored five goals for the Yellow Army in ISL 2020-21.
Gary Hooper has re-joined his former club Wellington Phoenix on a two-year deal, the club announced on Tuesday. The 33-year-old striker represented Kerala Blasters in the recently concluded 2020-21 season of the Indian Super League (ISL).
“We are excited to announce that forward Gary Hooper will return to the Club on a two-year contract,. Hence, he will remain in the yellow and black through the 2022-23 season,” read Wellington Phoenix’s official statement. He last played for the Phoenix in A-League 2019-20, notching eight goals and four assists across 21 appearances. He also played an instrumental role in the club achieving a historic third place finish.
“Hooper was great for us last time he was here, he’s an imposing and influential player. He is a solid option for us up front with his goal-scoring ability,” said Ufuk Talay, the head coach of the A-League outfit.
He further added, “Last time he joined us after the season had started, so the prospect of having him here for both the pre-season and the next two full seasons is an exciting one. We welcome ‘Hoops’ back to our squad and hope the fans are looking forward to seeing him in action for the Phoenix.”
What Gary Hooper said
Meanwhile, Gary Hooper said that he is delighted to be back at the Phoenix. “I’m really happy to be fair, signing a two-year deal and being back with the same staff, same manager and a lot of the same players. My family and I really like living in Wellington as well. We had a good season when I was there last, but obviously COVID-19 messed that up a bit,” he said.
“I missed the players and the bond we had together. In that season when we came third, unluckily I got injured before the Elimination Final game. But, I remember the bond that we had, the way we played and the way the manager set us up – his system and him just letting us play football.
“My plan is to be with the boys in July after I’ve done my quarantine. Hopefully, I’ll be there for the first day of the pre-season. It’s always nice getting a full pre-season under your belt and starting a new season as a full year. I came late last time and it took me a while to get used to everything, the setup, the system especially,” he further added when asked about when he will join his teammates.
Hooper at Kerala Blasters
While the Yellow Army had a largely underwhelming ISL 2020-21 campaign, a few players including Gary Hooper made headlines courtesy of their individual performances in the league.
Hooper clocked 1387 minutes across 18 matches for Kerala Blasters, scoring five goals and providing four assists for them. His stunning half-volley goal against ATK Mohun Bagan, scored from over 30 yards out is regarded as one of the best strikes of the season. The 33-year-old also produced a similar effort against Jamshedpur FC, but the goal did not stand despite the ball crossing the line.
Last week, the Blasters announced their decision to part ways with six of their foreign players from last season, including Gary Hooper. Juande Prados has already joined Adelaide United, after leaving the Kochi-based club in March.