BY RICHARD CAWLEY
James Hanson wants to get back to striking fear into League One defences – and reckons AFC Wimbledon is the perfect club to make that aim a reality.
The Dons’ year-long search for a targetman is finally over after the 30-year-old signed last week.
Hanson scored 92 goals in 334 matches for Bradford City but featured just 15 times for Sheffield United, netting once, following a January 2017 move to Yorkshire.
He spent the second half of last season on loan at Bury, where he featured 18 times but did not open his goal account.
Wimbledon are set to play a 4-3-3 system that was so effective when they had Tom Elliott leading the line. And it seems that will suit Hanson down to the ground.
“I’m delighted to sign,” he said. “Wimbledon kept in touch a lot over the summer and made me feel wanted. I did have other offers but I felt this was a big move for me in my career – I need to go to a club that play to my strengths.
“I spoke to Longy [George Long, who spent last season on loan from Sheffield United] and he said the thing that was missing was a targetman in the box – they’d get into some great areas but didn’t have the belief anyone would get on the end of crosses.
“For a mixture of reasons this is the perfect move for me to get back to where I used to be – I was one of the best strikers in League One a couple of years ago.”
Hanson was linked with Millwall a few years ago.
“I was really happy at Bradford at the time and my missus wasn’t quite ready to move down,” he said. “It made it a big factor in not going to Millwall. Now everything is fine.
“She is happy to come down at weekends and it is quite a northern league – I can get home to see the missus and my little girl, who is five. She’ll be coming to games as much as she can. We’ll make it work. I can focus on my football while I am down here.”
Injuries hampered Hanson’s time with the Blades. He still had a couple of years to run on his contract, but did not want to sit back and just bank his salary.
“I felt it was important to get out for the start of pre-season rather than waiting two months,” he explained. “I know that pre-season is massively important for me, having missed the last two ones. I wanted to play football ASAP.
“The main thing is to stay fit, keep the niggles down and play as many games as I can.
“I always try to at least get double figures for goals. If I can chip in with 10-15, plus assists, any more is a bonus.
“I’ve been driving in with Trotts [Liam Trotter] and we feel if we get a couple more signings in then we’ve got a real good base to go forward from. A lot of lads know what this league is about. We’re certainly not looking at the bottom of the table. Anything is possible in terms of the top six – Shrewsbury proved that last season.”
Hanson was working at a local Co-op before he got his move into the professional game at Bradford in 2009.
“That holds you in good stead. I know what the real world is about. At the time I was playing part-time football and earning quite good money in non-league, I just felt I wanted to have another job at the same time while I focused on some college work.
“When I got fortunate and had my trial at Bradford City I was 21, I was quite late coming into the game. My body, with the benefit of full-time training, started to take shape and I really didn’t look back – I played 35 games in that first season.”
Hanson scored one of the semi-final goals which help take Bradford to the League Cup final in 2013. He played the full 90 minutes as the then League Two club lost to Premier League Swansea City.
“We have a laugh and joke, the other Bradford lads, that we were really fortunate to have some great cup runs under Phil Parkinson.
“We played some big games in our careers. I played at Wembley in a cup final and play-off final. We beat Leeds in a Yorkshire derby and won at Chelsea. We had a lot of success as a team. You are fortunate to get those moments, some people don’t get any.”
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