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Will Middlesbrough and Sheffield Wednesday step up Gary Hooper chase?



By  Rorals 

It has been a steady, yet unspectacular start to the 2015/16 campaign for both Middlesbrough and Sheffield Wednesday – two sides tipped to go well in a notoriously difficult Championship promotion race.

Boro fell at the final hurdle last term, with their dreams dashed in the play-offs by Norwich City at Wembley, and they have invested heavily, and wisely over the summer – with the return of Stewart Downing to his roots at the Riverside Stadium arguably the pick of the business carried out by second tier sides.

Wednesday, meanwhile, have also looked to make necessary funds available to a new manager working under owners desperate to make their mark in English football.

Expectation is high around both clubs and a five-point return four games into the season will be considered steady enough in a battle which cannot be won by the end of August, but can certainly be seriously impaired.

The issue for Aitor Karanka and Carlos Carvalhal heading forward may be, where are the goals going to come from?

Boro built their success last season from the back, with defensive solidity – the best in the division – allowing them to end the campaign in fourth spot despite offering the lowest scoring return of any side in the top eight.

The Owls were also resolute in the final third – with only Boro and champions Bournemouth bettering them in terms of goals conceded – but only the trio of relegated outfits found the target on fewer occasions, resulting in mid-table mediocrity.

Wednesday have started the current campaign in much the same manner – leading in two of their last three outings, but collecting just two points from said fixtures as they struggle to see opponents off.

They have also had five different goalscorers – which can be seen as a positive, as the efforts are spread throughout the squad, but also points to the lack of a potent hit-man to lead the line and be the focal point of a productive attacking unit.

It therefore comes as no surprise to find Wednesday being linked with a move for Norwich City striker Gary Hooper, with Middlesbrough also reported to be in that particular mix.

The former Celtic forward is a proven goal-getter, with the 27-year-old having spent three seasons troubling UEFA competitions betting markets in the Champions League prior to his return south of the border in the summer of 2013.

Things have not gone entirely to plan for him at Carrow Road, so a change of scenery may do him the world of good.

Norwich boss Alex Neil has attempted to play down the mounting exit talk, telling the media: “As far as I am concerned there is no interest in Gary Hooper. There has been a lot of speculation in the media but until anything is concrete then we won’t be commenting on it.”

That may well be the Canaries’ stance – turning a blind eye and deaf ear to all outside reports – but their resolve is likely to be tested before the deadline passes on September 1.

Hooper – a man with 31 goals in 65 appearances spread across his last two seasons spent in the Championship – will attract interest for as long as he continues to keep benches warm in Norfolk, and the opportunity to rebuild his form and confidence elsewhere will appeal more and more the longer he finds himself in the shadows.

Middlesbrough and Sheffield Wednesday can offer him the opportunities he craves, while presenting the chance to be part of ambitious projects aimed at securing a return to the Premier League, so expect both to be in the reckoning if the door is opened and a man mooted as a possible England international not all that long ago becomes available – be that on a short or long-term basis.

ScoopDragon Football News Network

Article title: Will Middlesbrough and Sheffield Wednesday step up Gary Hooper chase?

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