BRADFORD CITY manager Stuart McCall last night insisted the January transfer of James Hanson to champions Sheffield United was a “win-win” for both clubs.
The Blades striker will today meet his former club for the first time since calling time on his seven-and-a-half year stint at Valley Parade.
Manager Chris Wilder’s faith in Hanson has since been rewarded by United going on to clinch promotion and the title, following Bolton’s defeat at Oldham, while City were able to use the initial £150,000 payment to part-finance their own acquisition of Charlie Wyke.
His seven goals in 14 starts have helped keep the Bantams not only on course for the play-offs, but also in with a chance of sneaking into the top two, which is why McCall feels the surprise departure of Bradford-born Hanson to Bramall Lane has worked in the favour of both Yorkshire clubs.
“Charlie has been everything we hoped he would be and more,” the Valley Parade chief told The Yorkshire Post ahead of today’s televised derby.
“He was always on the radar, but I had never managed to see him live. The plan was to look at Charlie in the flesh for Carlisle a couple of times between now and the end of the season with a view to possibly signing him in the summer.
Charlie (Wyke) has been everything we hoped he would be and more.Bradford City manager, Stuart McCall
“But then a twist came when we got a bid out of the blue from Sheffield United for James Hanson. That meant we needed to react quickly and bring someone in to replace James. Charlie was the one we wanted.”
City’s pursuit of Wyke proved to be a drawn-out affair despite a release clause in the striker’s contract at Brunton Park being triggered by the League One club bidding £250,000.
The Cumbrians initially refused to confirm or deny the presence of the clause and the deal stalled amid talk of interest from other clubs, including one in the Championship.
McCall, however, stood firm and, shortly before the January window closed, finally got his man. His patience has since been rewarded by a string of impressive displays from Wyke that have left his manager delighted.
“The deal went on longer than we anticipated, but he has done really well,” added the former Scottish international.
“His goals record is good, but it is his all-round play, too, that we like. Even in training when we are working on possession, he is good. Strikers are usually not the ones that stand out because their skills are elsewhere. But Charlie does.
“He is strong, links play well and is good in the air. He is a good old-fashioned centre-forward and a good finisher. I have been really pleased with him and long may it continue.
“Charlie is an unassuming lad who won’t get ahead of himself. He is from the north east and his feet are on the ground. A great lad to work with.”
Bradford’s gain has very much been Carlisle’s loss with Keith Curle’s men having slipped from third place on the day Wyke, who netted 12 times in 29 league appearances for the Cumbrians this term, moved south to seventh today. Since his departure, Carlisle have netted just 11 times in 14 outings.
McCall added: “You do your homework and speak to people. I did that, so did Greg (Abbott, head of recruitment) and others.
“But, until you work with a player, you never truly know them. And, in that respect, he has been a big bonus for us.
“The bottom line is we needed goals. The performances were there, but not necessarily the results.
“It has been a win-win January for both us and Sheffield United, who have now won promotion with James.
“As for ourselves, we have a younger James Hanson. The owners have said from day one they want to bring younger players in and develop them. Charlie falls into that category, as does Alex Jones.
“I say young, but Charlie has played a lot of football and that is a big help because we lost a lot of experience in the window – Nathan Clarke, Filipe Morais, James Hanson and Matthew Kilgallon was injured.
“When you play in front of 17,000 and are used to a lot less, it can be difficult. But Charlie took to playing in front of big crowds really well. Alex Jones is the same, as is Alex Gilliead.
“We went down the younger route with potential, but with good senior lads already here, as they are needed.
“You have to be careful you have the right balance when at a clubs like this because of the expectation that can be there.”
Last six games: Sheffield United WDWWWW Bradford City DWLWWW.
Referee: P Tierney (Lancashire).
Last time: Sheffield United 3 Bradford City 1; December 28, 2015; League One.