Ross Hannah finally got his wish of a career in the Football League when he joined League Two outfit Bradford City last Thursday.
The goal machine ended a three-year spell with the Gladiators which has brought three Fans’ Player of the Year Awards, three club top scorer awards, two Premier Division Golden Boot trophies, and Derbyshire Senior Cup winners and losers medals. He also smashed a 28-year club goalscoring record by cracking in 52 goals last season.
Now he will be plying his trade three levels above the Gladiators as his dream finally came true just two days before his 25th birthday.
He joins the Bantams on an initial one-year deal which could be extended by a further year at any point during the 2011-2012 campaign. Having been rejected by both Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United as a junior, Hannah is determined to make up for lost time.
“I’ve had to work hard for this opportunity and now it’s come I want to take it with both hands.
“To sign my first professional contract is incredible, something which I’ve dreamed about since I was a little boy.”
Hannah’s final Gladiators tally was 111 league and cup goals which made him a firm fans’ favourite since his move up the A6 from Belper Town.
“Now, reviving the fortunes of a struggling City side which finished 18th and just five points above the relegation places, will be high on Hannah’s agenda but he is confident he can make the grade.
“I know that things are going to be hard for me to begin with but other players have come here from non-league and done it. I feel that getting over 50 goals like I did last year is quite an achievement.
“Hopefully, playing alongside professionals – no disrespect to Matlock – I’ll get even more chances. I feel that even at this early stage if I’m given the chances I’ll put them away.”
Hannah leaves the Reynolds Stadium acknowledging that the last three years have been the best of his footballing career.
“I’ll never forget what Matlock Town has done for me.
“It’s been a real pleasure to play for the club and I’ll keep special memories of a special club and will never rule out returning one day, hopefully after a great career in the Football league and a lot more goals. Everyone at the club has been brilliant to me and you’ve all helped me in achieving my dream of playing professional football in different ways.
“This last three years have been the best of my career and I couldn’t have wished for better supporters who have backed the club through thick and thin.
“Unfortunately, this last season ended in disappointment when at times things looked ever so promising. I hope everyone understands my decision to leave the club and test myself in the Football League.
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“It was a very hard decision to leave a club where the supporters have been so good to me, had the best set of lads I’ve ever been involved with and a manager in Mark Atkins who’s done so much to help me develop as a player.At the same time though, it was a no-brainer and now I’ve got the chance to do something I’ve worked so hard for and grown up dreaming about.”
Of course, the person with the real headache now is Atkins who needs to find a replacement for a striker who is virtually irreplaceable. But with transfer talk rife over two months ago, Atkins was probably prepared for Hannah’s departure and is already busy trying to find a proven scorer to fill the scoring boots.
“If we were honest, we all knew that this would probably happen,” Atkins admitted. “He goes to Bradford with our very best wishes. We thank him for everything he’s done for the club, he’s been a pleasure to manage, a great servant and very popular with his fellow players, management and fans. He’s scored a phenomenal amount of goals and his workrate has been top class. He fully deserves this tremendous opportunity which has come his way and I’m sure he’ll do very well if he continues to work as hard as he’s done here at Matlock. I’ve identified targets to come and replace him and spoken to a couple of players but it’s early days yet. Nobody’s said yes, nobody’s said no, we’ll have to see what happens but we’ll be making the best possible offers to boost our squad and a few additions will help things along nicely.”
The Gladiators’ opening two friendly matches sees them travel to Koolsport Northern Counties East League opposition. They will face Teversal on Saturday, July 9, and Armthorpe Welfare on Tuesday, July, 12.
There is a big night in the new Matlock Town Sports and Social Club on Saturday May 28 with a Rod Stewart tribute act in the form of Gary Pease. Entry is by ticket only, available from the Social Club or Club Shop costing £5 for members and £10 for non members.