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Penny dropped for James Hanson after Phil Parkinson lost out on top Bradford City target Paul Benson
James Hanson has filled the void left by the striker that got away.
Paul Benson returns to Valley Parade as a Swindon player tomorrow for the first time since his planned City move in November broke down on medical concerns.
Phil Parkinson was bitterly upset to see his top transfer target slip away – and Benson has gone on to fire 12 goals for Paolo Di Canio’s League Two champions.
But the Bantams boss reckons Hanson has eased his disappointment by stepping up to the plate.
Parkinson said: “Paul’s a good player and that’s why we tried so hard to get him. We thought he could play with James as well as instead of him.
“But equally James – and Nahki Wells – have really done well since then.
James (Hanson) knows he has got to be the focal point and look to inspire other people on the pitchPhil Parkinson
“I do think the penny’s starting to drop now with James and what’s expected of him.
“He’s our number nine, not a young kid we’ve just plucked from non-league. He’s been here a few years.
“He knows he has got to be the focal point and look to inspire other people on the pitch. He has to be a leader in the way he runs and competes and I think he’s done that more and more as the season wore on.”
Hanson is City’s top scorer on 14 goals, two ahead of Wells, and their strike partnership has developed promisingly over the second half of the campaign.
Parkinson can see a growing maturity in the target man and said: “When you come from non-league, sometimes you can bring some traits with you that are hard to shake off.
“For me, James is definitely coming of age as a player and I’m expecting him to finish the season well tomorrow and keep improving. There is always room to improve but he’s got the raw requirements to be a good striker.”
Andrew Davies and Jon McLaughlin could feature on the final day – their first involvement since the infamous Crawley brawl. For Davies, it will be the last game of his loan from Stoke.
David Syers, whose City future remains undecided, may also return if Ritchie Jones fails to recover from the whack on the back he suffered at Cheltenham.
Parkinson said: “We are contemplating changes for several reasons. With Jonny Mac and Davo, it’s a bit unfair that the Crawley game would be their last (of the season).
“Of course they made a mistake but they’ve taken their punishment and been great about it.
“Jon went down to the FA hearing with David Baldwin to represent the club and Davo has been great coming in every day for five weeks and training. It’s a long time.”
Davies saw red at the County Ground in October but City still battled to a 0-0 draw. No side has managed to keep Swindon goalless twice.
Parkinson said: “We were excellent down there. Even when we only had ten men, we played really well.
“We know the discipline of our team and the shape when we haven’t got the ball will have to be at its best. Maybe in the second half against Cheltenham last week we became too open.
“Swindon have invested well in the squad and continually improved. But it doesn’t matter what budget you have, you’ve still got to get teams over the finishing line and credit to them for doing that.”
The flamboyant Di Canio has promised to have the Swindon club crest tattooed on his chest to celebrate the title – but Parkinson has no plans for any body art of his own.
He laughed: “I’ve never been into tattoos! But Paolo’s done great. I don’t know him but he’s a character and a big name. He was an exceptional player and so far he’s proved to be a good manager.”