The number 21 shirt will be hanging on a peg again in the City dressing room this afternoon.

It would have been at Valley Parade last week if Phil Parkinson had got his way.

The Aaron Mclean deal couldn’t be pushed through in time to make it a seamless transition by playing against Bristol City. Instead it will be Sheffield United who face a player fired up by the prospect of going back to his “proper” position.

His eyes lit up when I asked him about playing up front again after numerous outings stuck out wide. It has been too long.

Those statistics are deceptive. The goal rush of his Peterborough days had dried up as he moved onward and upward – and out towards the flanks.

The 4-2-3-1 formation much loved in the higher leagues took the attacking edge off a player who had previously won the Golden Boot in League Two. His workrate – something that won him many admirers at Posh and, to be fair, at the KC – was still utilised but at the expense of his striking instinct.

You can sense the opportunity of getting back in his box – the penalty box – was a crucial deal-maker in the club’s painstaking efforts to get him to Valley Parade.

Mclean had been on City’s radar for a while, though any talk of interest in the last transfer window was fanciful.

He is believed to have taken a pay cut of well over half to return to League One, something that would not have been considered back in August.

Championship clubs, thought to be Doncaster and Barnsley, showed an interest but the 30-year-old wanted a challenge to get his teeth into. Not to mention an assurance that he would be back in the old routine – playing up front again.

Mclean admitted: “I had to think about it because I had to work so hard to get to the Premier League. It was a difficult decision to work out where I would go next.

“This move had to be the right move, both footballing-wise and for my career. I didn’t want to go to a Championship team and be part of a squad or playing out of position again.

“I remember coming here with Peterborough and thinking ‘wow, how many people....’ “I had a look around again on Wednesday and it was even bigger than I remembered. The stadium is huge.

“I can imagine when they’ve got a full house, it’s really rocking.

“The chairman said if you work hard for these fans, they’ll really get behind you. That suits me down to the ground because that’s all I’ve done my whole career – that excites me.”

City have pushed the boat out to land the “proven” striker that Parkinson wanted to fill the void left by Nahki Wells. There may not have been a fee but the wages over the length of contract are a statement of intent.

Any reluctance on the board’s part to sanction that outlay was balanced when they discussed younger, more untried targets.

Someone in that category, say Lee Gregory at Halifax, would have cost a decent transfer fee on top. His pay packet may have been considerably lower but add the sums together and it would be much the same amount – for someone who has not done it at this level yet.

Mclean has a lot to live up to wearing a number that has become synonymous with City’s recent success. You sense that is part of the challenge that most enthrals him.

City were impressed by his obvious hunger and desire during talks. He is a player out to prove himself again.

There is a real purpose now to the second half of the season.