Sheffield Wednesday: Hughton warns Seagulls to keep close tabs on Hooper
Manager Chris Hughton is acutely aware of the threat Owls striker Gary Hooper poses to Brighton and Hove Albion's chances of reaching the Championship Play-Off Final.
Hooper, who has bagged 13 goals for Wednesday this season, is expected to lead the line for Carlos Carvalhal’s side when they entertain the Seagulls in the first leg of their Semi-Final duel tonight.
Hughton is a big admirer of Hooper, having signed and worked with him when he was in charge of Norwich City.
“Gary’s a massive threat and a very, very good player,” said Hughton. “What I think he has given them is an energy.
“He didn’t play very much early in the season at Norwich and went on loan initially before Christmas so I would imagine, looking at some of his performances, that he’s in peak form as well, not having played so much as the beginning of the season.
“He scores goals, and I think anywhere he’s playing regularly and getting chances, he puts a fair ratio away.
“So he is one of a good few quality players they’ve got that we know are a threat but obviously I can speak about him because I know him better than some of the others.”
Brighton finished three places higher and 15 points better off than Wednesday in the regular season.
Few observers expected the Owls to challenge for promotion at the start of the campaign, but Hughton has rejected claims that they have surpassed expectations.
“With the team they have, they are worthy of being in a play-off position,” he said. “This is such a tough division, so full of quality - Premier League teams that have come down and want to go back up - that any team that finishes in the top six very much deserves to do so.
“Wednesday have recruited very well. When you look at players like [Aiden] McGeady, [Barry] Bannan, Hooper, they have been able to bring in Premier League players. And with that they have a very good work ethic. So I don’t feel that they have overachieved.
“They have a lot of strength and quality in depth too. They have been able to make a lot of changes at times too.”