Video: Fit-again Gary Hooper ready to make up for lost time at Sheffield Wednesday
He is back and doing what comes naturally to him.
Gary Hooper returned to action on Monday afternoon following the longest injury lay-off of his career.
It proved a profitable comeback for the centre forward as he grabbed a first half double in the Owls Under-23s comprehensive victory at Barnsley.
The 28-year-old played nearly an hour and both his goals typically came from inside the six-yard box.
“It felt good to be back on the pitch and playing again,” he told The Star. “I was pleased to get on the score-sheet.
“I’m just trying to get my sharpness back.”
Hooper has sat-out Wednesday’s last nine matches and only resumed first-team training 10 days ago.
He said: “It has been a tough period. This has been the longest I’ve been out with an injury in my career.
“It has not been easy dealing with that.
“I couldn’t rush back as hamstrings can go anytime.
“I don’t really like the physio room anyway so I feel lucky that this is the first big injury I’ve ever had.”
The former Norwich City forward is relieved to be back in the fold.
He joked: “I’ve been training with the physio and the team a few times but I needed some game time.
“I’m happy with what I got out of the development match. I played nearly an hour so hopefully that will help me get my sharpness back.”
Although Hooper suffered a slight reaction versus the Reds, boss Carlos Carvalhal expects him to take part in full training today.
He said: “It’s amazing to have Gary back. It’s very good to us.
“I’m looking forward to him being back as soon as possible.
“Gary is an important player who scores goals.
“He gives us pace and different attributes to the other strikers that we have.”
Hooper remains in contention to be included in the matchday squad against fourth-placed Huddersfield Town tomorrow.
“I think it is eight weeks on Saturday since I last played,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of strength work on my hamstring so hopefully the injury won’t comeback.
“If the gaffer decides to put me on the bench and throw me on, I will give it my all.”
Following back-to-back league draws, Carvalhal’s side will be aiming to kick-start their promotion challenge again against a Huddersfield side who are currently on an eight-match unbeaten run.
Another big turn-out is expected for the Yorkshire derby and the Owls have been strong on home soil, collecting 25 of their 42 points at Hillsborough.
“Huddersfield is a big game,” acknowledged Hooper.
“They are up there in the play-offs but we know we can beat anyone in the league when we turn up.”
Wednesday are still searching for their first goal of 2017, having fired blanks in their home draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers and in the FA Cup defeat versus Middlesbrough.
Carvalhal’s men are one of the lowest scorers in the top half of the division, with Fernando Forestieri and Steven Fletcher their joint to-scorers with six goals.
By and large, creating chances has not been the problem for the Owls this season. It has been taking their opportunities.
Hooper, who has found the back of the net on five occasions, is adamant Wednesday’s players need to take collective responsibility for the lack of goals.
“I think we are playing well,” he said.
“Everybody is trying to score but it is just not going for us.
“It is a collective effort. We have to keep going and working hard on improving things in training.
“We have defended well and are not really conceding many goals.
“We showed how well we can play at Newcastle. It was an unbelievable result and it was great the skipper popped up with the goal.
“We need to take that level of performance into the Huddersfield game.”