PROFILE: Why James Hanson's signing could equip Sheffield United to seal a long-overdue promotion to the Championship

0
Have your say

Seven years ago, around the time Sheffield United's decline into League One began, James Hanson was stacking the shelves and changing the toilet rolls in the staff bathroom at Co-op.

Now, following yesterday's confirmation that Hanson has completed his move to Bramall Lane from Yorkshire neighbours Bradford City, they are together - and looking only to the Championship.

Reaction, it is fair to say, to Hanson's arrival has been mixed amongst Blades fans - perhaps unfairly, for a man with a one-in-three goal ratio with the Bantams since making a £7,500 move from Guiseley, where he combined playing with a part-time job at Co-op's Thorpe Garth store. He is largely feted in West Yorkshire, and an excellent piece by Simon Parker, the Telegraph and Argus' chief sports writer who has covered Bradford since the turn of the Millennium, draws some comparisons between him and club legend Bobby Campbell.

The 6ft 4in striker was one of the heroes of Bradford's run to the 2013 League Cup final and will be remembered for scoring a memorable - and perhaps typical - goal in the semi-final second leg away at Aston Villa, a towering header which gave Shay Given no chance.

More often forgotten is his goal which started that run, in the slightly less glamorous surroundings of Notts County's Meadow Lane home when he curled home the extra-time winner from the edge of the box. He also netted the first in City's League Two play-off final victory over Northampton that same season and, as Parker writes, he is clearly the man for the big occasion.

And Chris Wilder's United will come across several of them in the second half of the season as they look to finally escape the clutches of League One.

James Hanson is now a Blade

James Hanson is now a Blade

Almost as importantly, he seems to have always had his fair share of critics and from dealing with them, has developed a thick skin which will undoubtedly serve him well at Bramall Lane, where it's probably fair to say he'll encounter a fair few fans with their glasses half empty.

Hanson's journey back to the professional game, which eventually brought him to Bramall Lane, began when he was released by Huddersfield and Bradford, his hometown club, as a youngster. He joined Eccleshill United, then in Division One of the Baris Northern Counties League, before Blue Square North club Guiseley came calling, and a record of 46 goals in 67 games for Guiseley earned him a return to City.

“We couldn’t understand why Bradford had let him go,” said Adie Towers, Guiseley’s chief executive and club secretary, said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.

“I was in charge of our academy side and he was playing for Eccleshill. He stood out straight away. We signed him and he was prolific in the two and a bit years he was here.

James Hanson, right

James Hanson, right

“There were a few League clubs looking at him, but Bradford were the only ones who made a concrete offer. We sold him for £7,500, which looks like a bargain now, doesn’t it?

“I’m absolutely delighted. It’s so nice to see somebody as nice as him doing well in the game.”

United have paid between £150,000 and £200,000 for his services, and only time will tell if proves a bargain too. Wilder, the United boss, is certainly enthused about the striker, citing his "good age" and pedigree in Bradford's recent promotion and cup exploits.

A cursory glance at United's arsenal of striking talent - currently compromising 18-goal skipper Billy Sharp, Caolan Lavery, Matt Done, Marc McNulty and Leon Clarke - shows it is perhaps missing that 'physical' edge that Hanson will certainly bring, although his signing should not be interpreted as a sign that Wilder will abandon his footballing principles, either - a point he made after Tuesday's defeat at home to Fleetwood, which would perhaps have been tailor-made for Hanson.

Instead, along with fellow new boy Jay O'Shea of Chesterfield, his signing merely strengthens an already very strong squad, with the ultimate aim of escaping League One at long, long last. Help them do that, and Hanson will no doubt receive similar adulation in South Yorkshire as he did in the West.