A dream come true – how Ross Hannah became Bradford City professional, via Worksop, Gainsborough, Belper and Matlock
Like so many others, he grafted for years in part-time jobs while playing non league football, all the while striving for that golden move to a professional club.
But unlike most, he realised that dream and at 29, has played in a Yorkshire derby at Elland Road, been to Wembley twice and is still keeping his dream alive.
Today, he’s a full-time player for Chester in the National League.
It all started, however, with Beighton Magpies - a Sheffield junior club.
Hannah’s story has a familiar refrain.
Picked up by Sheffield Wednesday as a promising youngster, he harboured hopes of one day pulling on the famous blue and white stripes of his boyhood club and turning out at Hillsborough as a first team player.
It didn’t quite work out like that though.
Released at 15, he took a well travelled route, moving straight into non league and making his debut for Worksop Town as a fresh faced 16-year-old.
That game against South Kirkby Colliery is still fresh in his memory 13 years later.
In fact he talks about most of his career facts and stats in detail with impressive power of recall.
“I was at college in Worksop, and played my first game in the Sheffield Senior Cup, coming off the bench for Paul Mitchell,” he said.
“I had watched Worksop as a kid with my dad and so I knew the level and the kind of players, so I was buzzing to be amongst them.”
He obviously impressed boss Paul Mitchell, because he was one of the players who followed the gaffer to Gainsborough Trinity.
But at the age of 17 he couldn’t break into the first team, and his career took a fateful turn with a move to Peter Rinkcavage’s Stocksbridge Park Steels.
“Pete knew me from Worksop and Gainsborough and although I had started on the wing, he chucked me up front one day.
“We hadn’t won in six or seven games, but I scored the winner and set us on a bit of a run.”
Centre forward was evidently Hannah’s calling in the game, and the switch saw him go on to be Steels’ top scorer that season.
He earned a contract, and was part of a side that lost on penalties in the play-offs, with promotion to the Northern Premier beckoning.
Steels wanted to kick on the next season, but for Hannah, real life intervened.
“My dad was a window fitter and he fell out of a window,” he said.
“He wasn’t too good for a few months, and that knocked me off for a while. My head wasn’t fully focused on it.”
A loan spell at Belper Town followed, and then a permanent move to the Nailers.
Eighteen goals before October had Mitchell on the phone again, and Hannah returned to Gainsborough Trinity in the Conference North.
He hit the net another nine times, but it wasn’t enough to keep him at the Northolme, and he went back to Belper.
Another 30 goals at Belper resulted in a move to Matlock, the last club he would play for as a part-timer.
In 120 games he hit the net 102 times – a statistic that suggests he was talented enough to play at a higher level.
Hannah always believed that to be true, even when he was knee deep in mud, off the pitch as much as on it.
“I always believed I could get a move,” he said.
“From leaving college I was doing part-time retail work, then I was an electrician’s mate and then I worked for my Matlock team-mate James Lukic, in his landscaping business.”
When he hears fellow professionals talk about the game, or training as work, he thinks back to those three years with the Gladiators.
“Lads call it work and I can understand why, because we work hard – but it’s not work.
“When you’ve grafted for eight hours landscaping, and then gone to play 90 minutes at night, that’s work.”
In his second season with Matlock he scored 42 times. But other than some Conference North clubs, no one seemed to take any interest.
The next season he went for broke, literally.
“I scored 52 and beat Matlock’s goalscoring record,” he said.
“In one Trophy game I scored seven in a 10-0 win.
“Everything I hit was going in, and I was enjoying it, getting some recognition in the Non League Paper and the ball started rolling.”
Finally he was given a lifeline, in the form of a trial with Doncaster Rovers, then a bonafide offer from Torquay United.
Matlock wanted more money, however, and with just two months left in the season, the Gulls flew away.
Barnet and then Dagenham and Redbridge were next in line, but the wages on the table weren’t enough to convince Hannah to leave home.
“I wasn’t asking for the world, I just wanted my wage at the time to be covered.
“If it wasn’t for people around me telling me that, I would have signed for anything but looking back it was the right decision.”
With a couple of games left in the season, Bradford Park City showed their hand, and boss Peter Jackson even turned up at Causeway Lane.
“I saw him and knew I had to play well, and although I didn’t really, I scored.”
The charisma of Jackson, and the size of the club convinced Hannah that this was the right move for him, and when it happened, it was an emotional occasion.
“It ticked all the boxes, I didn’t have to leave home, it was a great opportunity to join a League Two Club.
“As soon as you met Peter Jackson you knew you wanted to play for him.
“My dad and grandad have followed me everywhere and been a massive influence on my career, so all three of us drove up to Bradford.
“From playing in some of the grounds I’d visited – no disrespect to the level I was at – to playing in front of 16,000, I had to pinch myself.
“This was my chance, I was 24, a couple of days before my birthday, it was a dream come true.”
Part two of our feature with Ross Hannah, including the time he scored against boyhood heroes Sheffield Wednesday, a big miss live on Sky against the Blades, Wembley experiences, Grimsby Town, Halifax Town and more, will be published next week.