New signing JJ Hooper wants to make an impact in second spell at Northampton Town
New Cobblers striker JJ Hooper is desperate to show the club's supporters exactly what he is all about - and how much he has improved since he was last at the club.
The 23-year-old was signed this week on a five-month loan deal from fellow Sky Bet League One side Port Vale, and it was a move that came as a surprise to a lot of Cobblers fans.
That’s because Hooper was at Sixfields before in the 2013-14 season, being signed by Aidy Boothroyd, and then being released by Chris Wilder.
He failed to make much of an impact, managing just one start and five substitute appearances in a frustrating spell for the former Newcastle United trainee,
But he is back in the claret and white, will be in the squad for Saturday’s trip to Coventry City and wants to make his mark second time around.
“I was a different player back then,” said Hooper, who made the final appearance in his first spell as a substitute in a Sixfields defeat to Chesterfield in January, 2014.
“I think I’ve experienced a lot in the game and developed a lot, so hopefully I can show that to the fans.
“When I was here previously, I didn’t really play much, and hopefully this time I can show the fans what I am all about and get them onside.
“It wasn’t the best part of my career to be honest, but now I have the chance to show the supporters what I can do.”
After being told his Cobblers career was over by Wilder, Hooper dropped into non-League to play for Havant & Waterlooville, where he got his career back on track, top-scoring for the club with 13 goals as they made the Conference South play-offs.
“I think I needed to play in non-League, to get back to playing football and loving football and obviously it’s helped,” he said.
“It was good to go out and get some goals, and to then get back to where I should have been.”
Rob Page was impressed enough by Hooper to hand him a two-year deal at Port Vale, and in his first season at league one level he scored five goals, with four coming in the final 10 matches of last season.
Page of course left Vale to take over at the Cobblers in the summer, and when he was offered the chance to follow his former manager to Northampton, Hooper jumped at the chance.
“The attraction for me was playing under Pagey again and playing up top,” said the player, who started three of Vale’s four league games this season, but in a wide left role. “Linking back up with Pagey and playing in my preferred position.
“I think he’s a good man manager, he has coached me very well and got the best football out of me.
“I like to play in the two [up front], there’s bit more movement in the two, but where the gaffer wants to play me I’ll play really.”
So was frustrated at Vale Park?
“I wouldn’t say it was frustrating as I enjoyed my time there and I have to thank the fans for the support they have given me,” said Hooper.
“But as a footballer I like to push on and develop even more.
“To do that I’d like to play in my strongest position, and I would like to now get some goals for the Cobblers.”
Hooper has settled quickly into life back at Sixfields, and says he is already picking up tips from the club’s other front men Marc Richards, Alex Revell and Sam Hoskins.
“I think I can learn from Alex and Marc, and I already have in training just watching their movement,” he said.
“I can also learn from Sam, I can learn from every player here.
“The vibes around the club and the boys are unbelievable at the moment.
“I’ve trained with the squad and they’re a good bunch of lads, made me feel very welcome, I went to watch the West Brom game and they looked really solid.
“They looked a good team and I think they’ll do well this year.”
One thing Hooper has had to get used to after signing for the Cobblers is the battle for nickname JJ!
The Cobblers of course already have one JJ in John-Joe O’Toole, so will Hooper - whose full name is Jonathan James - be battling the supporters’ player of the year for the tag?
“No,” admitted Hooper. “Because I’m on loan, he can have it!”