The 20-year-old, on the books of Huddersfield Town, is already a leading contender to be City’s ‘Player of the Year’ after a series of accomplished displays under David Hopkin.
Even before the recent upturn in form that has seen Bradford lose just once in their last seven outings, O’Brien was a rare shining light as more experienced colleagues struggled while the defeats piled up.
“I have said to Lewis how impressed I have been with him,” said Akpan, fit again after a groin problem. “I came back after injury earlier in the season but then had another three weeks out, allowing me to watch and analyse how the team was doing.
“He has been the one who has been there all season. Probably our best player. Every game, he gives 100 per cent and the quality on the ball for a young lad is exceptional.
“To be able to do that when the team is not doing that well is a big thing. Especially at a big club like this. Well played to him for doing that. Lewis is an old man in a young body. A good head on him and he will do well.”
City host Walsall just four days after bowing out of the FA Cup on penalties following an amazing second round replay against Peterborough United at Valley Parade.
Hopkin’s men had 35 shots on goal in a 4-4 draw that twice saw the Bantams fight back from two goals down.
Akpan added: “The difference to, say, six weeks ago feels massive. We feel fitter, we feel sharper and we are reacting to things quicker.
“If we can stick to this way of playing, basically being on the front foot, then that has to be a positive.
“To come from two goals behind against a team like Peterborough would 100 per cent not have happened earlier in the season. We have got a lot more grit and determination about us.”