Arsenal might be sitting pretty five points clear at the top of the Premier League tree right now but turn the clock back a year and Arsene Wenger’s north London aristocrats were suffering their worst nightmare at an icy Valley Parade.

One of the many highlights of a night that will be forever cemented in City folklore was the way James Hanson bossed the Gunners centre halves.

International Per Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen were made to look novices – “owned” by the man who used to work in the corner shop.

And a nation woke up to the line-leading talent of City’s number nine.

As Hanson became public knowledge, his admirers grew – reinforced even more by that header at Villa Park which booked Wembley part one.

Hanson’s career has continued to go onwards and upwards in a memorable 12 months, culminating with the recently-inked new contract that ties him to his hometown club until 2017.

The big fella’s progress has come as no surprise to someone who was there from the earliest days of his arrival in the professional ranks.

Peter Thorne was on the way towards retirement after a goal-laden spell in claret and amber when Stuart McCall took the risk on a striker making his name at Guiseley.

But Thorne knew from the start that the raw forward given a pre-season trial had the potential to make his mark.

He said: “Stuart had brought him in and wanted to know what I thought. I was coming back from another injury, there’s a shock, and we were playing a reserve game up front together.

“You could tell straight away that James had something about him. You could see he had all the attributes.

“When you have such a big lad like that, their game is normally lacking in something else but he really wasn’t. Add a football brain as well and there was a good player there.

“You play a decent standard in the reserves and he was just so comfortable with it. That’s always a great sign for someone who had just come out of non-league.

“I told Stuart straight away that we should sign him but I’m sure the fact we did wasn’t anything to do with me. He was a player worth taking a gamble on.

“I was just shocked that nobody had tried to pick him up before. There’s not that many players like him around and everybody wants them.

“James was obviously a late developer but that happens in football. There are plenty of instances when people have come into the game late and done really well.”

Injuries aside, Thorne proved a shrewd capture for novice boss McCall, who made the striker one of his first signings in the City hot-seat.

By the time Thorne hung up his boots to enjoy a retirement spent chiefly surfing beside the family villa in Portugal, he had clocked up a hugely-impressive 31 goals in 67 League Two starts.

Hanson is currently three off his league half-century and Thorne can see plenty more to come from a player who has become arguably the key component in the team.

He added: “It was great for Bradford to keep him. I thought somebody else might have tried to sign him after how well he’s been doing.

“But James is a local lad who’s obviously settled and that makes a big difference. He has massive potential still. It’s easy to go on about his size but he’s got everything else that comes with it – he’s good with his feet and can hold the ball up really well.

“He’s made the step up from non-league and now done it again with promotion to the next division.

“It will be interesting to see how he gets on if Bradford can go up another level. But then you saw what he did against Arsenal and Aston Villa last year. If he can do it against them, then he can trouble anyone.”