It is hard to believe that it has been six years since Bradford City’s miraculous League Cup run.
The likes of Arsenal and Aston Villa were swept aside by the Bantams as they became the first side from the fourth tier to reach the final of the competition in 51 years. Although they would go on to be soundly defeated by Swansea City at Wembley Stadium, the occasion itself was enough for some of their players to become heroes at the club.
One individual who enjoyed a particularly successful 2012/13 campaign was James Hanson. After joining the club in 2009 following a successful spell with Yorkshire-based side Guiseley, the forward enjoyed a bright start to his career at Valley Parade, scoring 22 goals during the first two seasons for the club.
However, once strike-partner Nakhi Wells arrived at Bradford in 2011, Hanson took his talents to a new level as they linked up in devastating fashion. Under the guidance of Phil Parkinson, the Bantams avoided relegation mainly due to the goals scored by their two forwards and the best was still to come.
Hanson reached double figures in the league for the third time in his Bradford career the following season yet it was his escapades both in the League Cup and the play-offs which led to him earning to the status of being a cult hero at the club.
After the Bantams won the first leg of their semi-final 3-1 against Aston Villa, they faced a tricky trip to the Midlands to face the Premier League club in the return tie. An early strike from Christian Benteke pulled the Lions within one goal of levelling the tie yet Hanson had other ideas. With 60 minutes on the clock, the former Guiseley man powered a stunning header past Shay Given which ultimately proved to be the goal that secured Bradford’s place at Wembley, despite the club eventually losing 2-1 on the night.
The resulting hammering in the final of the League Cup would have caused many clubs to spiral for the rest of the season yet for Parkinson’s side, it seemed to spur them on with the goal of redemption via the play-offs being set. A brilliant end to Bradford’s campaign saw them clinch a sixth-place finish in League Two, setting up a clash with Burton Albion which they would go on to win 5-4 on aggregate.
With League One football in their sights, the Bantams tore apart Northampton Town in the play-off final with Hanson scoring a trademark header to open his side’s scoring. By winning 3-0 at Wembley, Bradford had all-but erased the Swansea defeat suffered earlier on in the season from the memory of their supporters, replacing it with unbridled joy.
Hanson would go on to enjoy four more seasons with the club in League One before moving to Sheffield United in 2017 where he didn’t reach anywhere near the levels that he had demonstrated under Parkinson. Now playing for AFC Wimbledon, the 31-year-old may play a major role in sealing Bradford’s fate this season as the two clubs are scheduled to play each other on the final day of the 2018/19 campaign.
With the Bantams facing a huge task to avoid relegation, it would be a cruel irony that Hanson, who is a hero amongst supporters at Valley Parade, could contribute in sending them back down to League Two, six years after he produced the finest moments of his career to date.
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