Lennon insists Hooper needs time to prove he is 'best buy'
Published 22/02/2011 | 05:00
Neil Lennon declined to be drawn on whether Gary Hooper is his best signing so far -- but the Celtic boss has no doubt that he has unearthed a gem.
The striker scored twice as the Hoops romped to an emphatic 3-0 win over Rangers, before turning provider for Kris Commons to seal the victory at Parkhead to move Celtic eight points clear in the SPL.
A CV that included stints at Southend and Scunthorpe, with loans spells at Leyton Orient and Hereford United, may not have set the pulse racing.
But the Englishman has been a revelation since his £2.4m arrival last summer, with his Old Firm double taking his tally for the season so far to 15 goals.
Asked if Hooper is his best purchase, Lennon said: "I'll let you know at the end of the season. He's excellent. He's only 23, let's give the kid a bit of time to see how his career progresses but I think we can all see what a good all-round player he is.
"He is a good footballer, has a great first touch. His first touch took him away from David Weir, he left him in his wake and it was a wonderful finish. Once he gets in there, you always fancy him to score."
There is also little doubt that the January capture of Commons -- also a target of Rangers -- was a worthwhile acquisition for Lennon.
The Hoops boss said: "We spent £300,000 on Kris Commons and I think that was a decent bit of business and we are pretty happy with the way things are going so far.
"He has performed very well and he is a better player now that he was when I was at Nottingham Forest with him. I'm delighted with his form so far."
Rangers boss Walter Smith has made no secret of the lack of funds at the Ibrox club and the difficulties in being forced to operate with such a small squad.
But Lennon believes the cash has had at his disposal in his first full season as Celtic boss has been used shrewdly.
"We feel we have spent the money well," he said. "I did sell Aiden McGeady, Artur Boruc, Marc-Antoine Fortune and Stephen McManus and you always worry that might come back and bite you.
"It's not as though we've been spending money willy-nilly and not recouping any money. We actually had a surplus of money by August."