Indian Super League (ISL) franchise Kerala Blasters, who are gearing up for the new season with a revamped squad and a new coach at the helm, have bolstered their attack by signing Englishman Gary Hooper.
The 32-year-old striker is being brought in as a direct replacement for Nigeria-born Frenchman Bartholomew Ogbeche, one of the outstanding performers for the Yellow Brigade last year. Having played at the elite level of European football with Celtic in the Scottish League and Norwich City in the Premier League, he has plenty of experience under his belt.
The sturdily-built centre forward, who has also represented the Championship side Sheffield Wednesday, possesses exemplary dribbling and finishing skills and is quick, strong and impressive in the air.
"I want to score as many goals as possible and make fans happy. At the same time, I will be happy to do anything to contribute to the team's winning cause. For example, if we are in the lead and in a winning position, I will be ready to drop back and provide support to the defence," he said in an exclusive online interview to Manorama.
How is your preparation going?
I could not attend the online training programme conducted by head coach Kibu Vicuna. Improving my overall fitness is the top priority now. I'm asked to stick to a specially-designed fitness regimen. At present, I'm fully immersed in it.
You were playing for Australian club Wellington Phoenix. What prompted you to join Blasters?
When agents from Blasters approached me with an offer, I did some quick research on the club and the ISL. The franchise's commitment to the game and its passionate fan base are the two main reasons why I chose Blasters.
What are your first impressions of Blasters fans?
There has been a sudden spike in the number of my social media followers. Most of them are Blasters fans. That is their way of extending me a warm welcome, I believe. I want to perform well in return.
How do you rate Kerala Blasters?
I have heard a lot about the club, but I'm yet to see them play. I will definitely watch some of their matches from previous seasons. My application for a visa to travel to India is currently being processed. I'm hoping to join the team's pre-season camp at the earliest.