Hanson and Wells, Wells and Hanson – the names have been inextricably linked in the past two years.
Phil Parkinson recently described them as probably the best front two in League One. With the possible exception of Leon Clarke and Callum Wilson at Coventry, it was impossible to argue.
James Hanson was there for Nahki Wells from day one; as chauffeur to training before the Bermudian learned to drive, confidante while he found his feet at Valley Parade and most importantly partner-in-crime capable of picking the lock of any back four.
Of the 53 goals Wells scored in City colours, 49 of them came when Hanson was on the pitch. Before Saturday, only four of Hanson’s previous 24 were scored without the number 21 in close proximity.
Their understanding was almost telepathic, with Wells knowing exactly where to be for the knockdowns when Hanson invariably won the duels in the air.
As Wells said of the striking double act a couple of months back: “We tick all the boxes together.”
That bond was broken last Friday tea-time when Wells held aloft the blue and white stripes, ironically joining the club which had released Hanson “for being too small” as a youngster.
Hanson nailed down his own Valley Parade future last month when he signed a new deal until the summer of 2017. His worth to the club remains immense – as demonstrated with his return to form against Bristol City at the weekend.
If ever City needed a trademark powerhouse performance from the big fella, it was Saturday with the wounds of the Wells exit still so raw. And he certainly delivered.
Hanson was gutted to see Wells move on but can understand his friend’s eagerness to step up a division. He is adamant that the 23-year-old’s debut goal against Millwall will be the first of many in the Championship.
“It’s a great chance for Nahki ,” he said. “There’s no doubt about it, he has got all the attributes and time on his side.
“He will probably admit himself he might have to change his game a little bit. He just needs to work on different little bits that will help improve him.
“You look at Charlie Austin. QPR only play one up front now and he’s had to change his game and he’s still scoring goals.
“If Nahki can work on that side of his game and still gets in the box to be in the right place at the right time, then I’m sure he’ll keep scoring goals. It’s a shame to lose him but he made it aware that he didn’t want to sign a new contract. So the club have got to look after themselves.
“I don’t know how much they’d be willing to lose if they had left it to the summer so you can understand why the club had to make that decision to sell him.”
Hanson netted two against Barnet way back in August 2011 when Wells first came off the bench, replacing Mark Stewart, and found time to get his opening entry on the City scoresheet.
The Bermudian actually replaced the targetman before launching the FA Cup rocket against Rochdale that really announced him on the scene.
Wells only scored three more without Hanson at his side – in back-to-back games in September 2012 when his partner was injured and, finally, this time last year against Oxford when Hanson was given a breather after the Aston Villa first leg.
Hanson had a hand – or usually a head – in many of the goals during the prolific eight-match run which saw Wells equal a club record in August.
But he had detected a slight change in the striker’s demeanour as the transfer talk snowballed – even if Wells gave little away.
“Nahki always keeps his cards close to his chest. He’s been like that ever since day one.
“He’s quite level-headed and kept his feet on the ground but this has obviously been on his mind.
“He probably felt he was ready to move on so it was right for everyone.
“It’s a shame to lose him but it’s a challenge as well for all the other lads to step up to the mark. Whoever comes in, we need to keep our season going.”
Hanson, as the battered and bruised Bristol City defenders will testify, is ready to meet that next challenge head on.
“Since last year, we’ve had everything our own way. It was the same at the start of this season.
“This is a challenge that we’ve got to get out of it and I’m confident we can do it. We’ve faced problems before and come through.
“We know what we’re capable of doing. Look back to when we beat Brentford 4-0 and they are top of the league – that shows how well we can play.
“If we can start producing those performances again, I still think we could get back up there and be chasing fifth or sixth.”
Bradford City: Death of a double act but James Hanson looks to the future after Nahki Wells departure
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