Roy Hodgson checked on Gary Hooper for England call

 

Celtic striker Gary Hooper was on the brink of a surprise call-up into Roy Hodgson's England squad for next week's friendly with Sweden.

The Football Association made contact with officials at Celtic this week to ask about the fitness of the 24-year-old, with the clear inference that if he was fit to play he would have been included by Hodgson in the squad – named tomorrow – for the friendly in Stockholm next Wednesday.

However, Hooper damaged a hamstring in Celtic's 5-0 victory over St Johnstone in the Scottish League Cup last week and is a major doubt for their Champions League tie with Barcelona tonight. Should he miss out against Barcelona then the likelihood is that he will also be unavailable for the England game with Sweden.

Having been overlooked for years, it is telling that Hodgson is willing to turn to the forward, who began his career with Grays Athletic eight years ago. Hodgson called up the Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster for the first time for the World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Poland last month. He was due to watch tonight's tie at Parkhead but has switched to Chelsea's home game against Shakhtar Donetsk.

There are other big decisions facing Hodgson before tomorrow's squad announcement. The Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere is available for the first time since last June. Hodgson may also decide to rest senior players for the friendly, which will be the inaugural game at the Friends Arena in Stockholm.

Gareth Barry is fit again and Tom Huddlestone, fit and back in the Spurs team, is also potentially in contention.

Hooper was playing his football at Grays as recently as 2006. He went on loan to Leyton Orient and Hereford after moving to Southend but his league career took off only after he moved to Scunthorpe in 2008. He responded with 50 goals in two seasons and in 2010, Celtic fought off competition from Middlesbrough to sign the striker for £2.4 million. In 104 games for Celtic, he has scored 62 goals and was included in Stuart Pearce's England Under-21 squad to face Denmark last year, but that time he missed out through injury.

Hooper is rated by the Celtic manager Neil Lennon as "very, very doubtful" for the Group G game against Barcelona.

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