When Andy O’Brien was a teenager and trying to forge a career with Bradford City, he considered Paul Jewell to be something of a bully.
Now, however, the overwhelming emotion the Harrogate-born defender feels towards the Ipswich Town manager is one of gratitude for playing a major part in developing a career that went on to include 26 Republic of Ireland caps and 12 years in the Premier League.
“Paul was a player when I first signed for Bradford,” recalls the 31-year-old ahead of today’s reunion with Jewell when the Tractor Boys visit West Yorkshire.
“I remember him being sent out on loan to Grimsby Town (in 1995) and it looked like being the end of him at Bradford City. But he came back, took the reserves and then later got the manager’s job.
“He did an amazing job, you only have to look at Bradford’s record under him to see that. We won promotion and then stayed in the Premier League when everyone expected us to go straight back down.
“For me personally, though, he was a bit of a bully. He was very hard, especially on the young lads. He felt we should toughen up. He would say things like, ‘I never want to see you go down if you get kicked as it shows weakness to your opponent’.
“I didn’t like it at the time but, now I am older and a lot more experienced, I understand what he was doing. He got the best out of me and I will always be grateful for what he did for me.
“Paul got Bradford in the Premier League and, from my point of view, if I hadn’t gone up with Bradford then would anyone have come in and bought me?
“I can’t imagine (then Newcastle manager) Bobby Robson buying me if I had still been in the Championship, rather than had 18 months in the top flight.
“For that, I will always be grateful to Paul Jewell.”
O’Brien made his Bradford debut in October, 1996, when Chris Kamara was manager and Jewell was on the Valley Parade coaching staff. The teenage defender then went on to make 25 appearances as City avoided relegation to the third tier of English football on the final day.
The following season, however, he found himself out of the side by the time Kamara was sacked in the January – paving the way for Jewell to take over.
Give or take a couple of brief spells out of the side, O’Brien became a mainstay of Jewell’s plans as Bradford won promotion to the top flight in 1999 and then stayed up 12 months later.
O’Brien said: “It was a fantastic time. Paul is a single-minded person and I am certain that quality has got him to where he is today. Fair play to him as what happened at Wigan showed what he did at Bradford wasn’t down to luck.
“By virtue of the fact he is still in management now, 14 years down the line, shows how well he has done.”
Jewell, whose family home remains in West Yorkshire, will meet again with O’Brien today when Ipswich Town, who have signed West Ham’s Kieron Dyer on loan, make the trip to Elland Road.
Wins over Doncaster Rovers and Preston North End in the past week have propelled United back into the race for automatic promotion and O’Brien is adamant Leeds have what it takes to last the pace.
He said: “It is the business end of the season now so it is irrelevant how we perform individually or collectively. Results are what matter.
“We did a job at Preston. Maybe, we didn’t create as many chances as normal. But, defensively, we were fantastic. Bradley Johnson, in particular, played well. He has been superb since I arrived at the club. He may not get the headlines of Luciano, Max, ‘Snod’ and Johnny but we all know how important Bradley has been for Leeds United.”