Neil Lennon suggested Gary Hooper, unquestionably his favourite son, was Celtic’s best striker since Henrik Larsson. It’s an interesting question.
The list is long: Chris Sutton, John Hartson, Henri Camara, Craig Bellamy, Dion Dublin, Scott McDonald, Marc-Antoine Fortune, Chris Killen, Maciej Zurawski, Kenny Miller, Derek Riordan, Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, Georgios Samaras, Robbie Keane, Diomansy Kamara, Olivier Kapo, Anthony Stokes, Pawel Brozek, Moh Bangura, Daryl Murphy, Miku and Lassad.
Apologies if I’ve overlooked someone. That’s 22 strikers in nine years (it’s a bit soon to consider Amido Balde), some of whom were loans, but the list doesn’t include the many Celtic youth players who got their shot at first team football, or those, like Tony Watt, who were signed for low fees from lower league Scottish clubs.
Chris Sutton and John Hartson were already at the club when Henrik left, but it quickly became evident they were past their best. Robbie Keane and Craig Bellamy were quality but only played a dozen or so games, so can’t really be considered as competition to Hooper.
Maciej Zurawski arrived a year after Larsson left and had a phenomenal first season at the club. He made his debut after the 5-0 reversal to Artmedia but inspired Celtic to a 4-0 win six days later. Maciej was on fire when he joined and only failed to score in five league games before the league win in April but he never found anything close to that consistency again. Record: 22 goals in 55 games.
Scott McDonald’s YouTube clip of goals in the Champions League and against Rangers will have featured heavily in the portfolio as his agent looked for a new club this year. His goals got us into the Champions League, beat European champions, Milan, and regularly put our (then) nearest rivals to the sword. Record: 51 goals in 88 games.
Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink arrived in summer 2006 and immediately outshone Zurawski. His debut as a substitute against Hibs transformed Celtic and won the game. His signing was pivotal in Celtic winning the title in 2007. Record: 34 goals in 78 games.
Georgios Samaras arrived 18 months after Vennegoor of Hesselink and alongside Barry Robson pushed Celtic over the line for three in a row. 2008 was a fabulous year for Georgios but although he’s still a forward, he’s not really been a striker since. Record: 41 goals in 138 games.
With 63 goals, 95 games, Gary Hooper’s scoring record is better than anyone else’s, but the challenge to be best since Larsson was simple, just outperform Scott McDonald. With all those strikers as competition, that’s not as high as the bar could be.
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