Norwich City striker Gary Hooper bites the hand that used to feed him
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Gary Hooper's predatory stoppage-time match-winning strike simply confirmed why Bolton boss and former Celtic mentor Neil Lennon rates him as the best hitman he has worked with.
Hooper's 93rd-minute finish earned Norwich City a priceless three points in their Championship promotion quest at the expense of the manager who unleashed him on the Champions League stage during their successful stint in Glasgow.
'Gary Hooper is the best striker I have worked with and one of the best around,' said Lennon. 'I got him from Scunthorpe for £1.5m and sold him for £6m; a brilliant bit of business. I don't know how many goals he got for us, 80-odd in three seasons, and all types of goals – at the highest level, in the Champions League, the Europa League and big games domestically for Celtic he was prolific. He is a brilliant player. I know him really well. I helped develop him.
'However, it is totally unacceptable that with two minutes to go, we can leave a £6m striker in front of goal with a free shot. Where we go, I have no idea. It is not as though Norwich cut us open with a brilliant piece of football. It was a diagonal ball, a knock down and Gary is in acres. That isn't good enough from our point of view.
'We shouldn't be leaving a striker of Gary Hooper's quality in space at any time, let alone in the last few seconds of a game. I am surprised he is not being used more but obviously Alex (Neil) has his own way of playing and it is working because they are up there.'
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Lennon admitted Hooper's strike could be a watershed moment in his own efforts to rebuild Bolton for next season and beyond.
'I am going to have make changes. You either work with them or you change it and sometimes you can lose the energy to stick with them because they keep making mistakes,' he said. 'We can't keep giving away last-minute goals. It is a lack of moral fibre. The ball has travelled a long way, so we only have to get across to Gary, get goal side, and we can deal with it no problem, but we don't. I don't know why. It is baffling me.
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'It was criminal defending and it is happening far too often. Even on the first goal the young lad has turned his back on it in the wall and you can't do that at professional level. He has to learn from that. It takes a huge deflection and they score when we looked pretty comfortable, but the way we are conceding goals late in games is alarming.'