TWENTY years have passed since a furious Paul Jewell reacted to Bradford City being four goals down at half-time by ordering his players back out on to the field just a couple of minutes into the break, but the memories remain vivid.
Crewe Alexandra’s Gresty Road was the venue on the penultimate weekend of a season that had seen the Liverpudlian handed the reins on a temporary basis following the dismissal of Chris Kamara.
Jewell, destined to take the Bantams into the Premier League, had been informed the night before that the job was his, but with one important caveat from Geoffrey Richmond.
“Basically, he told me the job was mine and I was going to get a two-year contract,” recalls the 53-year-old to The Yorkshire Post.
“The plan was to announce it on the Monday after the Crewe game, but he also added, ‘Providing we don’t get beat 5-0 tomorrow’.
“It was a throwaway line, but one that I couldn’t get out of my head as the goals were going in at Crewe. I couldn’t believe what was happening.”
City had started that April 25, 1998, encounter in decent fashion. Robbie Blake even missed the first chance of the game.
But once Steve Anthrobus had put the hosts ahead on 20 minutes the Bantams caved in against a side who, up to then, had lost 11 home games and managed to score just 23 times in front of their own fans.
Colin Little’s double and a strike from Kevin Friend left the visitors 4-0 down at the break and their manager incandescent on the touchline.
“There was a big following there from Bradford that day,” says Jewell. “They were rightly giving us all the dog’s abuse, me more than most. I got to the dressing room, told the players exactly what I thought and then ordered them all to get back out there.
“They had embarrassed me and the club, so I wanted to embarrass them.”
As the first of the players, resplendent in their sky blue shirts, emerged into the sunshine from the tunnel just two minutes after disappearing from view the crowd was momentarily stunned.
So, too, were those of us sitting in the press box at the back of Crewe’s old main stand. It took a few seconds for the reality to sink in, and then the mocking began.
“You’re not very good,” sang the home fans in unison as the City players, looking uncomfortable and unsure of what to do next, milled around the centre circle.
I wouldn’t do it now as a manager. Don’t get me wrong, I am not ashamed of what I did that day at Crewe. I felt I had to make a stand. I was embarrassed at my name being associated with a performance like that.Former Bradford City boss, Paul Jewell
Gary Walsh, still shell-shocked at conceding four goals in just 19 minutes, had insult added to injured pride in the most surreal of fashions as ‘Grrrresty’ the lion, Crewe’s 6ft mascot, offered the former Manchester United goalkeeper a chocolate bar.
Even a polite refusal would not deter ‘Grrrresty’, who after succeeding in getting Walsh to accept the ‘present’ added with a wink, “Don’t drop it will you?”
Walsh did not know whether to laugh or lamp the interloper. Jewell, however, was in no mood to see the lighter side of anything with even an improved second-half display – Crewe added just one more goal – doing little to improve his mood.
“Phil Brown thinks he has copyright on it after doing his team-talk on the pitch (when Hull City were 4-0 down at Manchester City),” laughs Jewell today. “But I was years ahead of him.
“It had actually happened to me as a player, too. Lennie Lawrence was our manager at Wrexham (in the Football League Trophy). We were 5-0 down and he said, ‘You lot have embarrassed me with that performance, it is your turn now’.
“That became the longest 15 minutes of my life. Everyone was taking the mick out of us.
“I wouldn’t do it now as a manager. Don’t get me wrong, I am not ashamed of what I did that day at Crewe. I felt I had to make a stand. I was embarrassed at my name being associated with a performance like that. Kicking them out of the dressing room made my point.
“But it probably wasn’t the right thing to do. You have to remember, though, that I was 33 then. I didn’t plan it, either. It wasn’t like I decided with a few minutes of the first half to go. I did it on the spur of the moment.”
A little over a year on from that infamous defeat at Crewe, City were celebrating promotion to the Premier League. Victory at Wolverhampton Wanderers on the final day by a side featuring no fewer than five of those who had been so publicly shamed at Gresty Road was enough to end the club’s 77-year wait to return to the top flight.
“Me and Geoffrey had our disagreements at Bradford,” added Jewell. “But he stuck by me after that Crewe defeat and still gave me the job. No one would have given us a chance of winning promotion a year after what happened at Crewe, but we did it. Funnily enough, though, it is days like Crewe that I remember the most from management, rather than the good times.”