Steve Bruce pays tribute to Sheffield Wednesday strike ace Gary Hooper
Boss Steve Bruce believes Gary Hooper's run-out in the Owls' goalless draw at Stoke City will have done the striker a "world of good".
Hooper made his long-awaited comeback at the bet365 Stadium as Wednesday secured a hard-fought point to stretch their unbeaten Championship run to 12 outings.
After proving his fitness in a second-string fixture and a behind-closed-doors match earlier in March, the 31-year-old was selected to partner Fernando Forestieri in attack.
Hooper, making his first competitve appearance since their Boxing Day triumph at Nottingham Forest in 2017, lasted 69 minutes before being replaced by Atdhe Nuhiu.
"We are all delighted to see Hooper back," said Bruce. "We looked at it and thought 'he has been training with us the best part of six weeks and he has had three games, two behind closed doors.'
"We are delighted he got an hour under his belt. You can see in training what a good player he is.
"The kid has been out a long time but he has given himself a chance. It will do him a world of good that's for sure physically and mentally."
Hooper, out of contract at the end of the season, found out he was playing on the morning of the game.
Bruce said: "I'm sure there were a few butterflies with the lad but he didn't know he was playing until the morning. I asked him how he felt and he said he was raring to go."
Wednesday were outplayed for long periods as Stoke dominated possession, territory and created the lion-share of the goal-scoring opportunities.
But a combination of poor finishing and top goalkeeping by Keiren Westwood ensured the Owls left with a share of the spoils.
"They have got good players, to be fair to them, very good players for this division and so considering the problems we had, we haven’t played anywhere near where we have been able to," conceded Bruce.
“Like I said, a lot of the players have been away, a lot of them are carrying a few knocks and bits and pieces so it’s a point on the road even though it’s probably not what we wanted."
The result saw Wednesday drop two places to 11th after Bristol City and Nottingham Forest both won. Bruce's side are now three points off the play-off places.