Gary Hooper Returns to Wellington Phoenix on Two-year Deal

Wellington Phoenix are excited to announce that forward Gary Hooper will return to the Club on a two-year contract, ensuring that he remains in the yellow and black through the 2022/23 season.

 

“It’ll be exciting to play in front of crowds again; everyone has missed fans [at football matches] all over the world, and I remember at our home games [in the 2019/20 season] that the Wellington fans were great.”

Hooper last played for the Phoenix in the 2019/20 A-League season, scoring eight goals - at a rate of one goal every 138.1 minutes - and registering four assists across 21 appearances. As one of the top-rated strikers in the A-League, he played an instrumental role in the Club achieving its historic third-place finish that season.

Following the 2019/20 campaign, Hooper re-located to the Indian Super League (ISL) – scoring five goals for the Kerala Blasters during their season.

Wellington Phoenix head coach Ufuk Talay says that the addition of Hooper gives added toughness to the squad and another dependable goal scorer.

“Hoops was great for us last time he was here, he’s an imposing and influential player - and a solid option for us up front with his goal-scoring ability,” says Talay.

“And last time he joined us after the season had started, so the prospect of having him here for both the pre-season and the next two full seasons is an exciting one.

“We welcome Hoops back to our squad and hope the fans are looking forward to seeing him in action for the Phoenix.”

Hooper vs MCY
Hooper scored eights goals in 21 appearances during the 2019/20 season including a header on his starting debut.

Hooper says that he is excited to be back with the Club and can’t wait to return to New Zealand.

“I’m really happy to be fair, signing a two-year deal and being back with the same staff, same manager and a lot of the same players – and my family and I really like living in Wellington as well.

We had a good season when I was there last, but obviously Covid messed that up a bit.”

Hooper says he formed a strong bond with several of the Phoenix players during his previous stint at the Club.

“I missed the players and the bond we had together – in that season when we came third, it was unlucky that I got injured before the Elimination Final game.

“But it was the bond we had that I remember, the way we played and the way the manager [Coach Ufuk Talay] set us up; his system and him just letting us play football.”

Hooper says that his goal is to join the squad in time for pre-season in July.

“That’s the plan, to be with the boys in July after I’ve done my quarantine and hopefully I’ll be there for the first day of the pre-season.

“It’s always nice getting a full pre-season under your belt, and starting a new season as a full year – because I came late last time and it took me a while to get used to everything, the setup, the system especially.”

After a season in the ISL without any crowds, Hooper is also looking forward to having fans cheer his team on again when he next takes the field.

“It’ll be exciting to play in front of crowds again; everyone has missed fans [at football matches] all over the world, and I remember at our home games [in the 2019/20 season] that the Wellington fans were great.”