Boss Carlos Carvalhal has praised new father Gary Hooper’s contribution in Sheffield Wednesday’s promotion tilt.
Hooper, formerly of Celtic and Norwich City, ended his lean spell in front of goal last weekend, bagging a second half double in the Owls’ comprehensive win over Cardiff City.
Victory cemented Wednesday’s place in the Championship’s top-six with a match to spare. Carvalhal’s charges will take on meet either Middlesbrough or Brighton and Hove Albion in the semi-finals. Second-placed Boro entertain the Seagulls on the final day of the campaign.
The first leg will take place at Hillsborough on Friday, May 13 and the second leg will be away from home on Monday, May 16.
Prior to his two classy finishes at Hillsborough on Saturday, the 28-year-old had gone over nine hours without a goal.
Hooper’s eye-catching display came just days after his partner gave birth to their first child, a baby daughter.
Carvalhal told The Star: “The last two weeks have not been easy for Gary because he was worrying all the time about when the baby would come. His partner had the baby last week so he’s very happy and he put in a performance that we expect from him against Cardiff.
“He’s a fantastic player and we are very happy with him.”
Carvalhal paired Hooper with Lucas Joao up front on Saturday. Joao replaced Aiden McGeady, who was a notable absentee from the match-day squad, and put in an erratic performance as Wednesday returned to winning ways. To accommodate Joao, Fernando Forestieri moved to the left flank.
“We decided to go with Lucas because we needed to open spaces on the defensive line,” said Carvalhal. “We wanted to open spaces in the middle for Fernando and Gary to exploit and Lucas did very well.”