GARRY PARKER believes it would be "madness" for Gary Hooper to move on in the January transfer window after the striker's 18th goal of the season yesterday helped Celtic to a 1-0 win over Motherwell.
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Hooper's strike, combined with a Fraser Forster penalty save from Tom Hateley, gives Celtic a nine-point lead at the top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League going into the winter break.
Hooper has been linked with a number of clubs – Chris Hughton, the Norwich City manager, was at Celtic Park yesterday – but Parker hoped the lure of Champions League football in the spring would be enough to keep the striker at the club for the foreseeable future.
"I expect Gary to be here at the end of January, definitely," said Celtic's first-team coach. "We want to keep him. We are in Europe, we have the last 16 of the Champions League coming up. I don't think any player would like to leave now anyway. I don't know what his thoughts are, but I think he will stay. Would it be madness to leave now? Of course it would."
Forster's penalty save was a source of some relief to Kelvin Wilson who had conceded the award by bringing down Jamie Murphy. Wilson, who will be at Hampden today to contest the decision to hand him a two-game suspension for an off-the-ball incident involving Dundee's John Baird on Boxing Day, believes Forster should be considered as good a goalkeeper as Joe Hart, England's first choice.
"It was a stonewall spot-kick," admitted Wilson. "I couldn't argue with it. It was a great save from Fraser, but we all had confidence in him that he would save it. I don't know Joe Hart personally but from watching him on TV he is one of the best in the world. Fraser is up there now and is a brilliant No.2 for England."
Parker added: 'It was a great save from Fraser. He does it week-in, week-out for us and that's why he is in the England squad. He is a big guy. When you see the size of him the goal becomes smaller."
The result was a disappointment for Stuart McCall whose side had defended valiantly until Hooper struck. "Celtic started really well while we were jittery and edgy but I felt we grew into the game," said the Motherwell manager. "I'm disappointed to take nothing."
The match was Murphy's last for Motherwell and he is expected to conclude a move to Sheffield United today. Having been at Fir Park for over a decade, he admitted it is a wrench to leave.
"I was welling up a bit, just seeing all the fans clapping me off and all the boys clapping behind me," said the forward. "It's something I'll always remember. I've been 11 years at the club and I've kind of grown up in a way at Motherwell as a footballer and a person."