JAMES HANSON was signed to do a particular job for Sheffield United and he fulfilled it with aplomb. Holding the ball up as Billy Sharp spearheaded the final months of the great escape from League One.
No matter the striker who arrived from Bradford City for an undisclosed fee in the January transfer window only managed one goal, on his debut against AFC Wimbledon. His contribution in a support role for Sharp and others in the final third was significant. So much so that Hanson quickly became a crowd favourite.
On United’s return to the Championship, however, he was deemed surplus to requirements little more than three months since arriving. Which calls into question the wisdom of offering him a two-and-a-half-year contract in the first place. He spent the latter half of last season on loan to Bury where he made 18 appearances but failed to score before being transfer-listed.
Nevertheless it is surprising to hear the 30-year-old speak in less than complimentary terms about his stay at the Lane after completing a permanent move to Wimbledon this week. Describing it as part of a “bad couple of seasons” since leaving Bradford. Especially as he must have known what was required of him at United but still accepted a contract of a generous length.
“The gaffer here [Wimbledon manager Neal Ardley] made me feel really welcome. I think the style that they play will definitely suit me and which is something I need to get back to,” he said.
“I need the style that will suit which is what it was with Bradford under Phil Parkinson. I’m looking forward to working with the gaffer and hopefully thriving on a lot of crosses that are coming into the box.”
Hanson added: “If a manager makes you feel wanted, if he wants to play a certain style that I think suits me best then this was always my first choice regardless of other options.
“This is why I wanted to come here because I feel I have got a point to prove in League One. I’ve had a couple of bad seasons through injury and different styles of play so I feel I have definitely got a point to prove and coming here to a place where they are going to give you lots of service is exactly what I need.”
Hanson’s gripe about his brief playing time at the Lane – 15 matches in all – seems to be his deployment as an arial and physical presence in a support role rather using those attributes to attack chances created by others.
Explaining what Wimbledon boss Ardley expected of him, Hanson revealed: “He has said a lot of crosses will come into the box which is obviously my job to get in on the end of them. Which is possibly for the last couple of years I haven’t had enough of.”
Bury boss and former Blade Chris Lucketti said of Hanson in January: “We've been lacking goals and James has been brought in to help us in that department. He's a leader and he has a great presence.”
Lucketti was sacked just two months and ten matches in charge and 12 days after Hanson joined. Bury, under caretaker Ryan Lowe who has since been appointed permanently, were relegated, bottom of League One and nine points adrift with Hanson drawing a blank.
A hero at Valley Parade where he was top scorer in three seasons of his seven-and-a-half years there, Hanson will be returning to his spiritual home with Wimbledon. “I was fortunate enough to go back there [with Bury] on loan last season,” he said. “The reception I got was absolutely brilliant so I can’t wait for that.”
Hanson made one Championship appearance for the Blades last season as a 75th-minute substitute at home to Fulham in November. He was injured during a Carabao Cup win against Walsall at the Lane in August, making way for the debut of Ched Evans.
Hanson does have a lesson from his stay at United to impart to his new teammates. “You’ve got to be on it every single week, consistency is massive. Most days [in League One] Sheffield United were putting teams to bed and even when they [were confirmed] got promoted they wanted the next stage of 100 points.”