Gary Hooper showed why he is rated so highly by manager Neil Lennon when scoring twice in Celtic's Premier League win over Hearts at Parkhead. Lennon confirmed that the Scottish champions had rejected an offer, reported to be about £5million, from Norwich for the 24-year-old English striker. Hooper showed why he is attracting attention from south of the border when he slid in Adam Matthews's cross in the second minute for his 19th goal of the season.
Georgios Samaras added a second 10 minutes later but after Jason Holt pulled a goal back in the 69th minute there was a nervy spell for the home side which only ended five minutes from time when Hooper grabbed a third, before substitute Lassad Nouioui grabbed a fourth in added time.
Lennon will be hoping that he will still have Hooper in his side when Celtic face Juventus in the last 16 of the Champions' League next month.
"I thought Gary was brilliant," Lennon said, "he was at his best. He got two goals, but his all-round game was top class.
"We had a chat last night after speaking to his representatives and we wanted to make our position clear to him and he is quite comfortable with it all. We made it clear that we are not selling him, we don't want him to go, especially at this juncture of the season. However, everyone has their price and what Gary's price is will be down to the board and myself to decide. What we were offered on Thursday was nowhere near our valuation of the player."
Before the game started there was a minute's applause in memory of Sean Fallon, the former Celtic player and assistant manager, who died yesterday, aged 90, and the home fans were still remembering the Parkhead legend when the home side took the lead.
Right-back Matthews raced up the wing and got the break of the ball before driving into the box and squaring for Hooper to slide in from a couple of yards out.
The Tynecastle side looked all over the place and there was no surprise when Celtic doubled their lead 10 minutes later. Kris Commons' shot was parried by keeper Jamie MacDonald and Samaras tapped in the rebound.
But moments after Beram Kayal replaced Joe Ledley, the visitors found themselves back in the game when Jason Holt unleashed a drive which deflected off Mikael Lustig and spun past Lukasz Zaluska.
A game that had been a stroll for the home side took on an edge but in the 85th minute Hooper slammed in the third and Nouioui made it four when he converted a cross from Emilio Izaguirre.
Celtic (4-4-2): Zaluska; Matthews (Nouioui, 76), Izaguirre, Mulgrew, Lustig; Ledley (Kayal, 66), Brown, Commons (Rogne, 83), Wanyama; Samaras, Hooper.
Hearts (4-4-2): MacDonald; Wilson, Barr, Webster, McHattie; Taouil (Carrick, 86), Driver, McGowan (Tapping, 71), Sutton; Paterson (Walker, 46).
Referee Iain Brines.