Boss Page backing '˜powerful' Hooper to make his mark in second Cobblers stint
Boss Rob Page says loan signing JJ Hooper is a more '˜mature' and '˜powerful' player than the one that struggled to make an impact in his first stint at the Cobblers three years ago.
Signed by Aidy Boothroyd in the summer of 2013, the former Newcastle United trainee was restricted to just one start and four substitute appearances before being sent out on loan and eventually released by Chris Wilder.
Hooper failed to score for Town in his smattering of appearances for the Cobblers, but after leaving he found his shooting boots at non-League Havant & Waterlooville, scoring 13 times in the 2014-15 season.
That effort caught the eye of then Port Vale boss Page, and he took the gamble to sign the player and hand him a two-year contract at Vale Park.
Hooper initially struggled to adjust to life back in the Football League, scoring just once in his first 20 appearances, but he hit a purple patch of form, scoring four in 10, and Page believes he is going to be a success at Sixfields.
“JJ is somebody I know well and worked with at Port Vale last season,” said the Cobblers boss.
“He scored really important goals for me towards the back end of the season as well.
“He came into the club having been at Havant & Waterlooville. He dropped out of the league for a little bit, scored his goals, and earned the right to come back up to the level he is at now.
“JJ is a big, physical lad, and I know he was at Northampton before and he has matured a hell of a lot since then.
“Having worked with him last season, his attitude is second to none, and he gives us something we haven’t really got as well.
“It’s nothing against the lads we have got in at the minute, they are excellent players, but to add somebody of JJ’s quality and attributes is a positive.
“He is a big powerful boy and he has the pace to run in behind.
“The majority of the goals he scored for me last season came about when he would time his run well, the ball would go in over the top and JJ would go through one-on-one and get his goals.
“Some of the finishes were exceptional.
“I think it is a great addition and something we haven’t really got at the club, he gives us something different.”
So what is different about the 2016 Hooper model compared to the 2013 edition?
“He has gone out and got experience, and different managers get different reactions from players,” said Page.
“Did I get the best out of JJ last season? I would like to think so, I would like to think he enjoyed playing for me, and I got the best out of him so we will hope we can do that again.
“He has matured in the fact that he has gone out and got league experience, he has league goals under his belt now and he has grown in confidence because of that.
“That will hopefully hold him in good stead for his second spell at Northampton Town.”
Page is clearly a big admirer of the 22-year-old, and he believes the player’s bulk and pace are going to make him a real handful for opposition defences, and he also provides extra centre forward support for Alex Revell and Marc Richards.
“JJ will bring competition for places and quality,” said the Northampton manager.
“It’s not that we haven’t had pace in the team, just look at Sam Hoskins who has pace to burn, but he just has to be cleverer with at times.
“My concern is that Rico has had a limited time on the training ground, and if we were to lose Revs then who is the presence up top?
“Well JJ will bring us that presence.
“He is a big, strong lad who has developed from a physical point of view as well and he also gives us the pace in behind.
“To have the two attributes of being big and physical and also being able to run in behind means he is a great addition for us.”
Hooper is cup-tied so won’t be able to play in the Cobblers’ EFL Cup tie against West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday night, but is set to be included in the match day squad for Saturday’s Sky Bet League One trip to Coventry City.