Bradford City v Reading: Hanson plans to write yet another chapter in City’s football fairytale

Bradford City's James Hanson
Bradford City's James Hanson
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IT is a fairytale that has been told umpteen times and even immortalised in song by Bradford City fans.

However, no matter how many tellings the story of how James Hanson went from stacking shelves at the Co-op to heading his hometown club to Wembley gets, it loses none of its resonance.

Not in an age when football has become such big business that the top players earn more in a week than most fans manage in ten years and much of the magic that made us all fall in love with football has been eroded.

In just the last fortnight, for instance, the so-called ‘beautiful game’ has been rocked by depressing allegations of racism and sexism involving supporters plus a high-profile player being arrested on suspicion of having sex with an under age girl.

No wonder, therefore, that fans everywhere empathise with the story of how a shelf stacker was plucked from obscurity to lead the attack of his beloved hometown club. And then how he went on to twice play at Wembley, as well as be a part of an FA Cup upset so seismic that many consider it to be the greatest of all-time.

“I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with my life,” the 27-year-old tells The Yorkshire Post when asked about those days working in the Idle branch of the Co-op.

“So, I was working in the Co-op and playing for Guiseley to earn a bit of extra money. I would also go out with my friends at the weekend. Like I say, I didn’t know what I wanted to do.

“I fancied Uni or college. But, deep down, I thought there was a chance of going full-time with the football. I was playing at a good level.

“Having said that, I never thought I would get this chance (with Bradford). But I did and things have gone brilliantly.

“Most of the staff have changed, it was five or six years ago after all, but I still call in (to the Co-op) because it is local to me.”

Hanson’s story is one that gives proof to any budding footballer who was rejected as a youngster that perseverance can pay off.

It did, though, take the amiable striker time to adjust to the rigours of professional football. Goals did come in his first couple of years at Bradford but there was always a belief that there was more potential to untap.

Stuart McCall, the manager who plucked Hanson from Guiseley for £7,500, said as much in the pages of this newspaper ahead of Bradford’s Capital One Cup final appearance in 2013.

Hanson had scored the all-important goal that sent the Bantams through to Wembley but McCall, by then in charge of Motherwell, admitted to being frustrated that his one-time protege’s career had not gone further.

Two years on and McCall’s words have taken on a prophetic air with Hanson having finally started to realise the potential that the one-time Scottish international once saw at Guiseley’s Nethermoor ground all those years ago.

He has 11 goals this year but it is the striker’s all-round game that has made Hanson a difficult opponent for even the best League One defender.

John Terry, after watching City’s fourth round win from the Chelsea bench, was so impressed by Hanson that he sought out Phil Parkinson afterwards to praise the striker.

High praise, indeed. Not that such a level-headed individual as Hanson is likely to have his head turned by the words of a defender who has faced the very best in the world during his career.

“Life didn’t change after Chelsea,” said the Bantams defender. “I love my job every day and that hasn’t changed.

“It is probably to do with how I came into the game. Kids (in Academies) these days have everything done for them and have agents at 17 and 18. They think they are going to make it before they’ve worked hard. I’ve seen the other side.

“When you have worked before coming into football, it can be harder. Sometimes as a youth team lad, you get everything done for you. Then you have a shock when you are out of football. I have done it the other way.”

Today, Hanson is looking to not only write another chapter in his fairytale story but to also claim another addition for his games’ room wall.

“I have framed all the shirts I got after our Cup games,” he said. “I got (Didier) Drogba’s shirt at Chelsea, that was a good one.

“I also got Per Mertesacker’s from the Arsenal game and Ciaran Clark’s from Aston Villa (both 2013). I have got a games room at home with a few of the shirts in. They are special.”

After the heroics against Chelsea and Sunderland, Bradford are the undoubted story of this season’s Cup.

Whether that tale can continue remains to be seen but Hanson admits that, on reflection, a draw against Reading does have its merits even if the Bradford players were hoping for another tie against one of the big boys.

“It was a weird draw really,” he said. “All the lads wanted the big draw and if we had got an Aston Villa or a West Brom (the other two of the remaining four sides after the first two ties had been drawn), it wouldn’t have been as good.

“Reading was the next best thing if we didn’t get one of the big boys. We did want the big guns but this gives us a realistic chance of going through.

“I live in Bradford and the League Cup run is talked about all the time. But if we were to get to the semi-final of the FA Cup, it would surpass even the League Cup exploits.”