James Hanson does not need to convince Chris Wilder about what he can bring to a squad which has won 15 of its last 20 matches and is sitting pretty at the top of League One.
But those still questioning whether his combative approach will be effective, if Sheffield United do secure promotion, in the Championship next term should ask John Terry about the type of havoc the former Bradford City striker can wreak.
Terry was so impressed by Hanson’s performance during City’s FA Cup win over Chelsea three seasons ago, he contacted a friend at Valley Parade to praise the 29-year-old’s tenacity and extol the virtues of “good old fashioned” centre-forward play. Sentiments Wilder echoed when Hanson’s arrival from Stuart McCall’s side was unofficially confirmed last night.
“We’ll be delighted to get James here,” the United manager said. “He’s been a huge player for Bradford City and performed in pressure games. He’s played and absolutely battered some big centre-halves. If you ask other managers in this division who they wouldn’t like to play against, well, he’d certainly be right up there.”
Hanson, who scored 91 times in 335 appearances for City, will become United’s fourth capture of the transfer window after reportedly agreeing a two-and-a-half year contract at Bramall Lane. Wilder swooped after growing increasingly exasperated by the failure of their existing attackers to ease the burden on leading goalscorer Billy Sharp. But, after going public with his concerns following Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Gillingham, Wilder denied recruiting Hanson is simply a short-term fix for what is threatening to become an intractable problem.
“Short-term, he offers us something,” Wilder said yesterday. “Medium and long-term too. No matter what happens later this year and what division we end up in. He’s relatively young in terms of league appearances and he can get even better too.
“I’m not taking a wrecking ball to what we have done. But for me, when we have played well and worked hard, we should get getting our rewards. If we don’t, then we’ll turn good positions into ones we don’t want to be in.”
“He’ll have seen us play and the stats that we have,” Wilder added. “I said what I said on Saturday not to appease people but because that’s how I manage. We have to finish teams off. That’s part and parcel of the game. You can’t dominate like we have and not do that.”
Hanson, whose move is set to be officially completed this morning following the final part of his medical, has enjoyed a fairytale career since being released by City following a spell in their youth ranks. Having impressed with non-league Eccleshill United and Guiseley, where he combined his footballing duties with a part-time job at Co-op, he returned to his boyhood club in 2009 before being named as their player-of-the-year after just a season in the professional ranks. A member of the City squad which reached the 2013 League Cup final, defeating Aston Villa en route, Hanson scored during their League Two play-off final success over Northampton Town three months later before capturing Terry’s imagination with a barnstorming display at Stamford Bridge.
United had been scheduled to unveil Hanson yesterday but, having met his new team mates at the club’s training complex, a logistical issue forced the announcement to be postponed. Although that could force him to miss tonight’s game against fourth-placed Fleetwood Town, Wilder, who is also poised to recruit Chesterfield’s Jay O’Shea on loan, is excited by the prospect of working with Hanson over the course of his contract.
“We aren’t just going to smash long balls up to him,” Wilder said. “There is a lot more to his game than that and some people think because of his size. I think he’ll enjoy it here.”
United suspect Hanson, who stands six feet four inches tall and tips the scales at around 12-and-a-half stone, will thrive on the quality of delivery provided by the likes of Mark Duffy and John Fleck. But Wilder, together with his coaching staff, is convinced Hanson can coax even greater levels of performance out of those around him too. Hence the decision to pay City £150,000 for his services despite the fact his contract had less than six months to run.
“If you ask him, he’s loved his time at Bradford,” Wilder said. “The contract situation was what it was. That wasn’t our problem. The window is what it is,”