Mighty congratulations are due Sheffield United - regardless of the outcome of a possible promotion party last night which caught this column in
a spot of bother. You see, in going to press ahead of the game, we weren’t invited!
But I can only be premature at worst in saluting the inevitable and this page has been presenting tributes on a weekly basis.
Another today – on a relatively unheralded signing which has proved pivotal to the cause.
Sometimes the stats don’t tell the story. Take James Hanson and his figures up to last night’s big Bramall Lane occasion.
On the one hand, ten appearances since joining Sheffield United and one goal. On the other, unbeaten in those ten games during which his new team moved inexorably towards the League One title.
There are parallels with Hanson’s long service at his previous and only other club, Bradford City.
That yielded 91 goals in 286 appearances, albeit a much higher ratio but a good deal less than exceptional by the standards of a main striker.
Yet the big man was never judged on that basis and he isn’t being now. The fact is the 29-year-old added a new dynamic and Chris Wilder’s team have been more effective as a result, with Hanson’s scoring debut in a 4-0 win over Wimbledon coming off the back of a mini wobble that saw United lose twice in three games.
Hanson’s impact was instant. Although he may not have claimed any personal headlines since then (up to midweek), his presence has given United a powerful aerial option, taken the weight off Billy Sharp and others, and posed a problem for those visiting teams previously prepared to let the Blades pass in front of them.
As influential signings go, this was a big one whatever the stats may say.
Much as you’d like more goals – and United have probably yet to see the best of this player – his team ethic is there for all to see. Indeed, he was also hand-picked to fit this essential criteria of Wilder’s side.
“We look at the character of players and also their consistency over a long period of time,” says head of recruitment Paul Mitchell.
In Hanson’s case, that embraced a Valley Parade career of two Wembley trips, some epic cup victories and promotion from League Two.
The fact he was so loyal to Bradford over so many years also did not escape attention.
“A big miss to Bradford,” is how United skipper Sharp rates his sidekick. And it’s not only about height and power.
“James is technically very good as well,” says Billy.
“A real handful, unselfish and with a hammer of a left foot.”
Admirers in the United dressing room stretch to keeper Simon Moore who observes: “Some of the biggest guys get labelled as supposedly not so good with their feet, but that’s definitely not the case with James. Some of his finishes in training are superb.”
Maybe there is not the same scope on match days with goals spread throughout this United team but Hanson’s strategic part in the run-in should not be overlooked.
Club tribute next week!