By Andrew Smith
The arrival of James Hanson at Sheffield United has been met with some scepticism from Blades fans, but the towering forward could be the difference in the promotion push.
Towards the end of Hanson’s time at Bradford City, he was beginning to divide fans on his place within the squad. His aerial abilities make him one of the most dangerous forwards in League One and Bradford were reluctant to sell the player. He, alongside Nakhi Wells, propelled the Bantams to Wembley in the League Cup and won promotion in the League Two play-offs.
Hanson’s record for Bradford speaks for itself – in 286 starts the player has 91 goals. A goal-per-game ratio of over one in three is excellent for a six foot four inch player.
United’s dynamic play so far this season, with the ball often played along the floor, is a reason why the club sit top of the league. But as recent matches show, Chris Wilder has struggled to find a successful plan B when things aren’t going their way. A Twitter poll to Blades fans showed how the player could be used effectively:
Hanson hardly has to score a series of hat-tricks to be considered Sheffield United’s second striker behind 18-goal Billy Sharp. The goal-scoring return of United’s other forwards is rather dreadful considering the chances that the likes of Mark Duffy and John Fleck have provided this season. Matt Done and Caolan Lavery have two league goals between them, and Leon Clarke has managed one.
Headed goals have not been the trademark of United’s play this season, but crosses into the box do feature rather often. Clarke was brought in to be the player to attack air balls but after the first half the season it’s fair to say this is not the case. Hanson could easily find himself with a healthy return of goals come the end of the season if he can finish the bag of chances provided.
Nobody in attack for the Blades provides the physical presence that Hanson will bring, the clubs forward line is dotted with smaller, quicker players. With 17 games to go this season, there will be games where the Blades are struggling to break teams down.
For a fairly low fee, around the £200,000 mark, the signing of Hanson could be an excellent piece of business by Wilder and his team. Five or so crucial goals between now and the end of the season could be the difference between promotion and failure for the Blades.