Sheffield United: No time for friendship as Blades’ Hanson faces former pals

James Hanson
James Hanson

He was the poster boy for Bradford City’s giant-killing generation.

Phil Parkinson’s go-to man as the West Yorkshire club collected some of English football’s most coveted scalps.

But this afternoon, when his former employers visit Bramall Lane, James Hanson will be trying to preserve rather than smash the status quo.

“The mentality here is all about winning matches,” Hanson, now a League One champion, said. “It runs all the way through the squad. We’ve done it pretty well, which is why we are where we are where we are, on top of the table. But we’ve got to make sure it carries on.”

Hanson emerged as an influential figure in the United side which has dominated the division this season after leaving Valley Parade three months ago.

Although his transfer was a seismic event at the time - City’s Stephen Darby leading the tributes when the deal was announced - it probably suited both parties and made perfect sense.

“I was a bit gutted Jake had moved from Bradford when I got here.”

Parkinson’s decision to join Bolton Wanderers last summer robbed Hanson of arguably his biggest cheerleader and supporter while Chris Wilder, whose side are 16 points and three places above City in the rankings, was in desperate need of a powerful targetman.

“They (City) spoke to me at the start of season (about a new contract) but then I got injured and they probably wanted to stop things until I got back fit,” Hanson, who spent almost eight years with Stuart McCall’s side, said. “Then I was playing and scoring a few, but it was all quiet.

“I didn’t know what was happening, to be honest. I am now at a new club in Sheffield United and this is a new chapter for me. It is a chance to get going again.”

“There was talk of interest from Millwall but, geographically, that wasn’t right for me,” Hanson added. “

I was a bit gutted Jake (Wright) had moved from Bradford when I got here. We could have travelled in.

“The lads used to give him a bit of stick for being the only Bradford lad but I will share that with him now.”

Parkinson described Hanson as “the best big man in the division” when he helped United dismantle Wanderers in February.

McCall, the 49-year-old’s successor at Valley Parade, knows he will pose a huge threat to City’s defence throughout today’s televised fixture.

But, having represented both teams with distinction during his own playing career, he accepts there in no room for sentiment in professional sport.

Hanson continued: “When you’ve been somewhere for such a long time, as I was at Bradford, there’s always a danger you can become a bit stale.

“Coming here has given me a real lift and it was a no-brainer, to be fair.

“It was in the back of my mind (before leaving City) that I was perhaps ready to move on in the summer and focus on something else. The facilities here are brilliant and we just want to keep kicking on.

“I’ve come to a club that scores a lot of goals, floods the wide areas and get crosses into the box. The gaffer has shown faith in me and all I want to do is repay him.”

Hanson, aged 29, has already gone a long way towards doing exactly that after helping United secure promotion earlier this month.

Now a title-winner and having signed a two-and-a-half-year contract with Wilder’s team, he is looking forward to proving himself at Championship level next term. That’s where City, who appear well equipped to negotiate safe passage through the play-offs, hope to be competing too.

“Obviously it would be great to see them come up with us,” Hanson said. “If they do, I wonder if I’ll get two medals. One here and also, from earlier in the season, one there as well. I wish them all the best and I made some lifelong friends there. The fans were great with me too.

“But, when the game gets under way, the only friends you’ve got are the ones on your own side. I want to win and I know they do too.”

Hanson missed Friday’s victory over Port Vale as a precautionary measure after reporting discomfort in a calf muscle earlier in the week. But Wilder, speaking before United were confirmed as title winners following Bolton Wanderers’ failure to beat Oldham Athletic on Saturday afternoon, confirmed then frontman was expected to be available for selection against City.

Leon Clarke is searching for his fourth goal in as many outings and Billy Sharp is only two shy of his 200th career strike, so United’s coaching staff could be tempted to alter their shape to accommodate all three in their starting 11. At City, Hanson was often deployed in a wider role to equally good effect.

“There’s a really good team spirit here,” Hanson said. “The lads helped me settle in really quickly. The manager is really big on the group and you can see the benefits of that. Obviously everybody wants to do well individually but we all know the most important thing is the team.

We all pull together for each other on and off the pitch.”

For more news from Bramall Lane click here