Gary Hooper wants to stay at Celtic

Hooper pledges future to Celtic despite continued interest from Southampton

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UPDATED:

17:31 GMT, 30 April 2012

Gary Hooper is happy to stay at Celtic and fulfil his Champions League ambitions.

Speculation over a move to Southampton resurfaced after Hooper's former Scunthorpe manager Nigel Adkins led Saints to the Barclays Premier League.

Celtic rebuffed Southampton's interest in January and Hooper is content to remain at Parkhead this summer.

Main man: Gary Hooper (left) has been in fine form for Celtic this season

Main man: Gary Hooper (left) has been in fine form for Celtic this season

Hooper scored on his Celtic debut in a 2-1 Champions League qualifying win over Braga last season but the Portuguese side had won 3-0 in the first leg.

So the 24-year-old is eager to get a chance in the group stages by helping Celtic emerge through two qualifiers in the champions route in July and August.

Speaking about the Southampton speculation, Hooper said in the Evening Times: 'There are always rumours about that.

'But I have two years left on my contract, I am scoring goals and I am loving my football.

'There is a big chance for us to play Champions League football next season and that has been a personal ambition of mine for a long time.

Derby delight: Celtic celebrate Hooper's goal against Rangers on Sunday

Derby delight: Celtic celebrate Hooper's goal against Rangers on Sunday

'I loved playing in the Europa League this season and I think the game away to Udinese is one of the highlights of my career. I would love the chance to sample the Champions League now.'

The Englishman, who scored his 24th goal of the season in Celtic's 3-0 win over Rangers, added: 'I am happy playing for Celtic and yesterday just underlined that.

'The crowd, the atmosphere, the feeling when you score at Celtic Park – I think it is amazing.'

Hooper backed manager Neil Lennon's riposte to critics who say they fall down on the big occasion.

In charge: Neil Lennon (centre) led Celtic to the Scottish Premier League title

In charge: Neil Lennon (centre) led Celtic to the Scottish Premier League title

'A lot of people have said we can't handle big games, but I think we dominated the game and kept the ball and I don't think Rangers had many chances at all,' Hooper said.

Meanwhile, Charlie Mulgrew enjoyed a night to remember after being named Celtic's player of the year after heading the opening goal against Rangers.

The defender, who has scored eight goals this season, also won the players' player of the year prize at the club's annual awards night.

Winger James Forrest collected the young player award and Dylan McGeouch won the goal of the season trophy for his solo effort on his debut against St Mirren at Parkhead.