O'Connor backing Hooper
Michael O'Connor has backed Gary Hooper to become a full international after winning an U21 call-up.
By Chris Galea
Last Updated: 16/03/11 2:43pm
Scunthorpe's Michael O'Connor has backed former team-mate Gary Hooper to become a full international after earning his maiden England Under-21 call-up.
The 23-year-old has been in sensational form since switching to Celtic last summer, scoring 15 goals in 23 appearances for the Hoops.
The former Southend and Grays Athletic striker was rewarded this week with his first call-up to Stuart Pearce's squad to face Denmark and Iceland.
However, O'Connor, a full international for Northern Ireland, has told skysports.com that his ex-colleague has the ability now to play for England at senior level.
"I've got no doubt in my mind that he will do well on the international stage because he has been doing really well this year for Celtic," he said.
"Hopefully, in a year or two he will get a call-up to the senior team because he is a great striker and it would obviously be good for him to get that type of recognition.
"If he could play for Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland then he would have probably been called up already, but being English it was always going to be a bit harder for him due to the amount of competition.
"If he continues to do what he has been doing for Celtic this season then I can't see any reason why he won't go on to be a full international."
The ex-Crewe midfielder made his first appearance in over two months against Preston after recovering from a knee injury, but he insists that he is still short of match fitness.
"I was ready to play against Leicester, but wasn't selected, so it was great to get back on the pitch," he continued.
"I just need to start playing some regular games now and build my match fitness back up.
"I got just over half an hour (against Preston) and I've been doing lots of running in training, but I really need a reserve game or two to get myself match fit.
"There is a reserve game later (on Wednesday), so hopefully I'll play in that and I'll be even closer to being 100 per cent for this weekend's game."