IN-FORM James Hanson has been challenged to aim for League One’s player of the season title after missing out on the monthly award.
Hanson was today pipped for the August individual prize by Barnsley midfielder Conor Hourihane, despite scoring four and supplying two assists in City’s first five games.
But Phil Parkinson believes the Bantams targetman has looked rejuvenated since curing the back and groin problems that curtailed last season – and he is convinced that can continue.
The City chief said: “He looks a lot stronger, a lot more confident and I think we’re reaping the benefits from all that work when we pulled him out of the firing line towards the end.
“He was getting a lot of muscle stiffness, which was affecting him. It becomes a bit worrying when you can’t find out the reasons for that.
“He carried on with it for a long while and it gradually got worse. But we got him to see the right people eventually and got to the bottom of it.
“James has had a good start and it’s credit to him and Matt Barrass for resolving the issues he’s had.
“It’s down to a lot of hard work on the training ground. He’s always out there working at his game. Things don’t just happen in football.
"We’re pleased he got nominated for player of the month. But he wants to be nominated for player of the season.”
The deadline-day rumour mill fuelled plenty of speculation about Hanson but City fielded no late inquiries. Parkinson has no wish to lose such a key cog of the team – but was equally surprised at the lack of apparent interest.
He said: “When you look at some of the players who did move, you think ‘are they watching the same game as me?’
“I think Hans is a terrific player. But we didn’t have any offers on the deadline and I’m obviously really pleased with that.
“We didn’t want to sell him anyway because he’s one of our best players.
“We want players here who we can move forward with as a club and Hans has been pivotal to that over the past couple of years.
“Like I’ve always said about James, what the supporters don’t see is his unselfishness as a player.
“With a lot of strikers it will be all about them scoring goals. James sacrifices himself at times for the benefit of the team.
“He has also got a good tactical understanding of what is going on. There are a lot of areas that maybe go unnoticed by people who haven’t played the game.
“He knows it’s just the start of the season and he’s working hard to progress with us.”
The fifth-placed Bantams aim to keep up the pressure on early leaders Peterborough when they begin a home double-header against Yeovil tomorrow.
Filipe Morais is back in the squad after signing a new deal until January. The Portuguese midfielder, who has started four games, was unavailable for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy exit at Oldham in midweek.
Gary Liddle also returns after missing that match to allow his ankle to recover from the tackle which earned Leeds’s Luke Murphy the first of his two yellow cards in the derby clash.
Parkinson added: “Gaz wasn’t fit to play but he’s much better now. He took a nasty whack against Leeds.
“We dosed him up with pain-killers to get through the Rochdale game but obviously he was in a lot of discomfort on Sunday when they wore off.
“But it’s settled down again and that’s good news for us.”
The future of boss Gary Johnson has dominated the build-up for Yeovil but Parkinson expects a stern test from the Somerset club.
“Gary’s done an incredible job getting them up to the Championship and they were unlucky last year. They made a real fist of it.
“They’ve gone three unbeaten before Tuesday (when they lost in the JPT) but I’m not reading anything into that because there were a lot of changes.
“We certainly won’t under-estimate them because they’ve got a team of players who were in league higher last year.”