PHIL Parkinson hopes James Hanson will emerge as a stronger force from his fight to win back a regular starting slot for City.

Hanson has been relegated to a bench role by the impressive displays of current front duo Jon Stead and Billy Clarke.

It is arguably the first time that the Bradford-born striker has had to really scrap for a place since he broke into the side under Stuart McCall.

Parkinson believes the intense competition should inspire Hanson to push himself on.

He said: “The front two have got the shirts at the moment and are doing everything they can to keep hold of them.

“James is still our top scorer with five goals. He’s had his injury but he’s feeling better than he has done for a month or so and now he’s got to really fight for his place.

“Whether that’s training well or when he comes on for 15 or 20 minutes, he’s got to show everybody that he’s the Bradford number nine and wants his place back.”

Hanson has been a substitute in the last four games since recovering from a thigh strain. City are unbeaten in that time, with Stead and Clarke sharing four goals between them in the two most recent outings.

Parkinson added: “I remember when Andy Gray came in a couple of seasons ago. We were having a little bit of a sticky spell and Hans pushed himself on.

“He never looked back and started scoring. That competition did him good at the time.

“Now it’s the reverse situation. Steady has come here on loan and is playing well and Hans can’t get in the starting 11 at the moment.

“He’s a great lad. He loves playing for the club and it’s a good challenge for him.

“I think it has helped him that he’s had those few extra weeks. In the past with James, as soon as he’s fit he’s back in the team.

“But he’s been able to do some extra work and build his confidence back in his thigh.

“He’s trained well this week and like everybody out of the team, he’s got to work ever so hard to get back in it.

“It’s great from our point of view that, certainly over the next four or five games, we’ve got that competition.”

Stead’s stay currently runs out after the FA Cup third round and Parkinson met joint-chairman Julian Rhodes yesterday to discuss the position of City’s short-term and loan signings.

Filipe Morais and Ben Williams are out of contract in the few weeks and the loan deals with Andy Halliday and Francois Zoko will also soon be up.

The City chief added: “We speak all the time, myself and the board, but it’s getting to that stage now where we have to make some inroads and decide what we want to do going forward.

“It’s a bit different with Jon but we’ve got to decide about the players who will be out of contract.”

Parkinson has been heartened by the comments from Rhodes in the T&A yesterday that any transfer-window sales will be from choice.

“It’s great to hear,” he said. “Our supporters have got to understand that the board are very open about the finances.

“But this club is probably in as strong a position as any other because there are no debts at all. That’s through the careful planning of the board.

“It’s a very well-run club and I don’t think there are many in the lower divisions who haven’t got any debt.”

Stephen Darby was taken off as a precaution with a tight calf in last week’s Dartford win but the skipper is fit to face Chesterfield tomorrow.

Parkinson is expected to stick with the same outfield line-up, Jordan Pickford will return in goal, but is pleased to have plenty to pick from.

“It’s important as a manager to look round the bench and know that we can change the game if we need to.

“A lot of our good spells since I’ve been here have been when we’ve had those options and we have that now.

“We look as though we can create chances and it’s always good when you know there are players in your side that the opposition have got to worry about.”

City will have to pay particular attention to Chesterfield’s 19-goal hitman Eoin Doyle, the leading scorer in the country.

Parkinson, who watched them win at MK Dons last week, said: “It’s a huge bonus for them that Doyle has come up a division and scored as many goals as he has.

“It’s been great for Paul Cook. They are a good attacking team and I think it will be an open game.”