Staying miserable

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

By Jason McKeown

It must really suck to be a James Hanson hater. To have to devote so much of your time moaning about a hard-working, dedicated Bradford City footballer. To reject the fairytale story and obsess about the things this over-achieving striker can’t do.

Think about it.

This debate about James Hanson’s worth has been going on for more than five years. Back in 2011 and 2012, Bradford City were struggling near the foot of League Two, fretting about the prospect of relegation to non-league obscurity. And amongst the many valid complaints and grumbles of the time, some supporters went on and on about how Bradford City would never prosper with someone as limited as James Hanson up front. How we needed to “get rid” to move upwards.

Since then, the club has gone up and up – and James Hanson has remained relevant, significant and at the forefront of so many great moments. And yet still the argument persists from a section of City fans. If we want to progress as a football club, we need to get rid of James Hanson.

You think of all the wonderful moments James Hanson has contributed to Bradford City since 2012, and of how tainted they must have felt, even at the time, to those who don’t like him. Sure, when Hanson netted that famous goal at Villa Park to take the Bantams to a major cup final, the Hanson-haters cheered alongside the Hanson-lovers. But it can’t have felt as good to them as it did to us. To not only cheer a priceless moment for a footballer you love, but to know he was metaphorically sticking two-fingers up at those who derided him.

And those moments have continued. The crucial goals at Burton in the 2012/13 play off semi final. The opening goal of the play off final against Northampton Town. The winner against Leeds United – Leeds, for goodness sake – and the important early goal against Millwall that set up a certain FA Cup trip to Chelsea. Even last season, in a year of struggle in front of goal, his hat trick in a must-win encounter with Walsall was an uplifting occasion. Only last week, on an incredibly emotional night for the club as we mourned Sir Bobby Campbell, Hanson scored with a powerful header.

These are not just giddy goal celebrations, they are occasions in the club’s history that will be long remembered and re-told. Some of Hanson’s goals are amongst the best moments we supporters have ever experienced. And to many of us they mean more because of who Hanson is, where he has come from, and what he represents. A Bradford lad, who worked his way up from the bottom. A true hero.

And yet amongst those who would rather keep complaining about his deficiencies, express anger at his misses, and repeatedly state – with some justification – that Hanson should score more goals, these memories must be less colourful than they are for the rest of us.

How can those goals mean as much to you when Hanson’s ongoing presence at the club causes so much irritation? How can you leave Valley Parade last Tuesday not feeling joyous at Hanson’s fitting goal tribute to Bobby, because in your view he should have scored a hat trick?

But it’s more than the past, it’s how the ongoing annoyance that Bradford City still employ James Hanson must leave you feeling. If you spent a chunk of the 90 minutes each week waiting for Hanson to fail, it must feel bittersweet when he does score. If, like on Saturday, City lose and Hanson misses a good chance, it is odd to take glee from it – as several City fans did via social media. Your wants and aspirations for Bradford City don’t quite match the rest of us. You care just as much – of course you do – but Hanson leaves you conflicted.

You just don’t seem to be enjoying yourself as much as the rest of us.

And that means the debate rumbles on and on. If City want to get promoted to the Championship, we need to get rid of James Hanson. Just as we needed to if City were going to get promoted out of League Two, and to compete at the top end of League One. But the reality is that City have prospered because of Hanson not despite of him. Take away his contributions, and the club would not be where it is today.

Of course, if City are to keep moving forwards and climbing the football ladder, Hanson will eventually not be good enough for our ambitions and aims. And if and when that day occurs, those who have stubbornly stuck to disliking him will have a field day telling the rest of us they were right all along.

But as the saying goes, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

I’ve supported Bradford City nearly 20 years, I’ve studied and written about their history prior to that. James Hanson is one of the most iconic and notable players the club has ever employed, and his legacy will live on long beyond his time on the field. That managers have come and gone and yet all played him regularly says everything you need to know about what the true experts think.

And I’ll personally always feel proud of the fact that I have supported James Hanson throughout his time. Not because I am blind to his shortcomings, but because of his many strengths and his terrific contribution to the cause. And I can only imagine how miserable it must be to hold onto the opposite viewpoint.

Categories: Opinion

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25 replies

  1. Big Jim is not the perfect striker, he’s not prolific, he’s not fast, and he’s not very mobile. But i’m glad we have him. Most managers in League One would kill to have him in their strike force and i wouldn’t want us to come up against him.


  2. Oh how true! James Hanson is an enigma to be sure. He does miss chances and doesn’t always appear 100% match fit, but never once fails to give his all and leave it in the pitch.
    He tracks back defending from the front, chases every ball and lost cause, terrifies defenders, holds the ball up magnificently and is pretty damned quick for a big lad.
    Remember back to when he and Nahki Wells formed the ultimate league 2 strike force, deadlier than a starving piranha! They sparked off one another and knew each other’s game inside out, could rely on each other and it worked. Oh boy how it worked! Neither has been quite tge same since although Wells has been more prolific.
    We don’t need rid of Hanson, we need another strike partner for him like Wells. The boy from the Co-op is what legends are made of and I’d City to the core. I don’t care what his haters say, he’s a legend!

  3. For me it’s quite simple. There is no “making way” in professional football. As soon as another striker makes an irresistible case, by playing clearly better, and scoring more goals, they will force their way into the side ahead of Hanson, and rightly so, but until then…

  4. I’ve been a fan of Hanson during career at City. However, Christian’s first sentence describes him fairly accurately and, for that reason, to describe him as an icon and “one of the most notable players the club has ever employed”, is wide of the mark. As a youngster, I watched centre forwards like McCole, Stokes and “Bronco” Layne, all of which were worthy of the term “icon”. They all had one thing in common. They were strikers who could be relied upon to score regularly for City. Bobby Campbell had the same attribute. James doesn’t score enough and that’s what strikers are judged on.

    James was always notable by his absence during Parkinson’s tenure due to our main tactic of launching the ball up to him for his physical presence and flick ons,and the absence of an adequate replacement when he was unavailable.

    Under Stuart, James’s omission is not as evident, as our playing style is not dependent upon his strengths. I’ll always support James, and he’s been a loyal servant, but I also find it difficult to disagree with those that take the opposite view. I can’t recall too many critics of McCole, Stokes, Layne and Campbell.

  5. Love this Jason! Great article

  6. Rubbish article, why should he be exempt from criticism? He is as guilty has the rest of our strike force!!

  7. Must suck to be a Hanson hater? What utter tosh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • The haters miss the point again. No Hanson is not the perfect striker but why hate him when he has done so much good for the club? When now although maybe not always first choice he give us a great attacking option. Celebrate the positives!

      • Love how all the Hanson haters are marking down every positive comment about him on this thread.

        Queue all the thumbs down on my post 🙂

  8. I read this “article” about three hours ago and it’s taken me this long to stop chuckling. I know it’s been written to bait but I can’t honestly let this go by without comment!

    First question Jason did you go to Swindon? I am guessing not!

    The front two were utterly appalling, whether it was Hansons lack of footballing ability to hold the ball up or McNultys one on one missed from eight yards or the montage of Hanson misses….they were appalling and cost us the game in truth!

    Your argument seems to be that no blame can land at Bargefeets door, so who’s fault is it that chance after chance is created for him and he misses/skies it! If it isn’t his then who’s? Was it NKPs who went past three players to put it on a plate for him? Was it Marshalls fault for beating two to put it on a plate for him? Was it Vincelots fault that Big Jim scuffed a clearance from a corner (we are told so many times that he “excels” in this area) and went straight to a player on the edge of our box?

    The answer is no Jason, no it isn’t, it’s his fault!

    Let’s flip your argument on its head, is it lonely continually only wanting Hanson to score and continually watching him miss chance after chance? What a miserable time you must of had watching Nahki score at will! I bet you didn’t enjoy it as much as the majority of us? That’s an idiotic argument though just like….erm well this is awkward!

    By the way just because I don’t agree with you doesn’t mean that I am a Hanson hater! I would love to see him score more regularly but as history has told us….he won’t!

    One last thing, you do realise that by writing such one eyed biased “articles” you don’t actually do Hanson any favours do you? You put him on a pedestal that to be honest he doesn’t warrant and from there it’s easier for people to take pops at him!

    • Plenty to agree with here
      I am no Hanson hater but I think we need better than he is.. like we need better than Hulahoop, McNulty et al (not you P Neshead!)
      Simon’s last paragraph has it spot on.. the Hanson ‘hatred’ is fuelled by the Hanson ‘love-in’, that’s the only reason people get so vitriolic, not because of the local boy done good himself but because of the attention seekers that want to inspire an argument.

    • Hi Simon

      As you requested a reply via Twitter here is my best shot.

      Firstly you (and a few others) have ignored the point of the article which isn’t to have a debate about what he is good at and not good at, but the fact there are a lot of people who support City who actively want Hanson to fail and have been saying the same things again and again for years, often ignoring contrary evidence.

      I have never claimed Hanson is a world beater or that he has no weaknesses – he clearly does – but there is a hysterical over-the-top reaction from some people to every mistake/miss/slightly below par game he has. Let’s take your Swindon match comments and (moving the tone away from you personally and to what other people said) Marc McNulty has a poor game and people say he had a poor game. James Hanson has a poor game and people say he is not good enough for the club/liability/etc. It’s a very different tone.

      I didn’t go to Swindon so I’ll happily accept your eyewitness account that he had a bad game. Fine, it happens. But he’d just gone on a run of four goals in five games. He cannot be the clueless, wretched, cheating-a-living person some people say he is when he does that.

      And when such people want to keep arguing the get-rid-of-Hanson type stuff, and then he goes and does something brilliant for the club, it can’t mean as much to such people. You can’t spend 90 minutes wanting him to fail and then feeling proud when he succeeds. Not to the same level as the rest of us.

      The best example of my own personal experience on this is Eddie Johnson in 2007/08. I really hated Eddie Johnson. I thought he was a dreadful player offering nothing of value to us. I was looking forward to his contract expiring in the summer. Then out of nothing he scored two goals in two games. And I didn’t enjoy his goals or the games as much because of it. Daft because those goals earned us four points, but it left me worried we would keep him on.

      Moving wider, in 2012/13 within my group of friends some really disliked Garry Thompson over the first few months. And when he scored that goal against Arsenal, these people admitted that to them it was a shame Thompson got the goal and that it took some of the gloss off the moment for them.

      (The good news is Thompson won them around.)

      In terms of your latter points I loved Nahki Wells and so I don’t really get what you are talking about. I personally don’t care who scores the goals for City as long as we score goals. Yes it’s nice when it’s Hanson and I enjoy it, but I get as much joy from anyone else in the team. Especially at the moment, as it’s a team full of players I love.

      And on your final point, I’ve had a bit of private feedback from people in the game that they really like and agree with the article, so I’m not sure if it hurts or helps. He doesn’t need me to defend him anyway, he’s got on with the job for years despite the criticism. I think it was a chance to readdress some balance to the wider debate.

      Anyway final point from me – it’s my opinion, but like arseholes everyone’s got one so please don’t be over-concerned by what I think. I am just a fan, I don’t matter anymore than anyone else.

  9. I think this is simple. There is no “getting rid to make way” in professional football. As soon as anyone else forces their way into the team ahead of Hanson by playing better and scoring more, fair enough, but until then…

  10. I have been supporting Bradford City for over 25 years and James Hanson is one of my favourite players. Yes, McCarthey and Windass have better goals per game records than Hanson. However, Hanson has scored for us in a play off semi final, a play off final, a League Cup semi final and in a victory over our biggest rivals along with plenty of other goals. Of all the goals that Hanson has scored for us, the one that gave me most pleasure was his header at Aston Villa. Yes, Hanson misses goal scoring chances and occasionally he misplaces a header or a pass. However, these are far outweighed by the times that he finds a team member with a pass or he heads clear an opposition corner. Unfortunately, so called supporters like to give abuse to a player and in their eyes Hanson is an easy target. If these people put as much effort in to analysing how well Hanson plays, they would appreciate his superb contribution to our football club. I know that some people reading these comments will disagree and they are entitled to their opinion, but for me, Hanson has nothing to prove and I hope that I can celebrate more of his goals and applaud more of his overall play.

  11. Possibly the worse woap article I have ever read. Clearly a Hanson lover and cant see both sides of the argument

  12. I saw this getting attention so gave it a read and I can safely say it is the worst article I have ever read.

    When Hanson netted that famous goal at Villa Park to take the Bantams to a major cup final, it can’t have felt as good to them as it did to us. To not only cheer a priceless moment for a footballer you love, but to know he was metaphorically sticking two-fingers up at those who derided him.”

    Ha ha ha. To say that is pathetic and Jason, I realised why I don’t read your stuff.

    • So that’s why you came on WOAP on a Friday night and read one on Jason’s articles? And then went on to call yourself Hanson Out?

      I know who’s the pathetic one!

  13. I am a hater, I admit it. He always mixed the meat up with the Quorn. The birthday cards were never in age order. He put the tap(ins) wide of the aisle, the crosses way above the top shelf. Occasionally he’d get it right and his mother would come round a demand a payrise.

    • Haters gonna hate, take no notice of these miserable people Big Jim, you’re the greatest. You’re pockets must still be full of premiership defenders and Nahki isn’t the same player without you setting him up. You’ll be in the Championship next year. John Terry said something like you are good and he’s good so that means something.

  14. Well said Jason. We all know Hanson doesn’t score enough goals but surely we all want him to. Really can’t understand the grief some supporters give him.

  15. I’ve been to two games this season – Oxford & Swindon away. What I’ve seen is City playing a different style to previous seasons, Nicky Law running both games, Meredith superb down the left, Vincelot, KP and Dieng all very impressive. In both games,

    I don’t think Doyle should have been beaten from that range. The Oxford one the lad (who was an excellent player) passed it into the net and Doyle just stood there – not sure what he was doing, wrong-footed , did him with the eyes – I’m not sure – the goal was down to him. The Swindon one, he shouldn’t be beaten so easily from there, good freekick as it was.

    However, I digress, both games saw contenders for miss of the season. Hiwula at Oxford missed from two yards at most with noone to beat, McNulty at Swindon missed from 5 yards – what’s more neither even came close to scoring – both utterly shocking misses. Not sure how Hanson got the blame.

    Hanson works his socks off and I’ll never forget the Aldershot cup game a couple of years ago, where City were terrible but Hanson was everywhere – tried his heart out. He is limited that’s true, but this is League One. I can remember 3 clear chances for him at Swindon – one he put over, one he didn’t quite catch and one hit the post. He should have scored one of the first two, but I wouldn’t lay the defeat at his door and I’m sure McNulty would agree.

  16. Regardless of Jame’s attributes or shortcomings, the most disturbing aspect of the debate is how protracted its becoming. How opinions have now being classified as haters and lovers. Very unhealthy scenario when its a player of our club thats the focus.
    Possibly could have an adverse affect on the clubs fortunes, players and players families alike have to read some of the bile wrote.
    I read on one fans forum that someone actually wished injury on Jame’s so he couldnt play. That is someone sick in the head!

  17. Well that escalated…

  18. Hi there

    I think with respect going to bring this debate to a close. The article was always going to open up a Hanson’s value debate, but the point of it was to argue how miserable it must be to dislike him and want him to fail, which I think is fair comment.

    Some of the unpublished comments are getting a bit personal including someone pretending to be my mum and trying to make jokes about how I must have been unloved as a child. Yeah…my mum died two years ago so hilarious stuff.

    We’ll be back with another article on Sunday. Hopefully an opinion piece on Billy Clarke won’t quite draw the same level of ire 🙂


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