The Michael Wood Column

Thursday 03 October, 2002

The rehabilitation of Paul Jewell

As a young manager he seemed unstoppable. I genuinely believe that when Paul Jewell took Bradford City to the Premiership he had the mark of greatness.

Greatness in the way that at one point someone will have looked at Huddersfield boss Bill Shankley or Liverpool defender Matt Busby and said "He has something". Jewell was marked out.

Paul Jewell's achievements at City are in danger of being lost in the melee that followed his departure. Without doubt he had the best chance of anyone ever given the hot seat at Valley Parade. Ambitious chairman with universal backing, new board members investing hard cash, the opportunity to integrate the returning Stuart McCall into the heart of his side. Paul Jewell had the greatest one of the opportunities afforded any Bradford City, second arguably only to those given Chris Hutchings and Jim Jefferies. The difference with Jewell was that he did not screw it up.

The landmarks of Paul Jewell in management: The defeat at Crewe where he would not let the players hide at half time, the final day on the field with his children at Wolves, the win at Middlesborough on the first day and the one over Liverpool on the final, the walk out as the rest of the country celebrated beating Germany in Euro 2000.

From then the course of Jewell gets unclear. He should have been taking Bradford City into a second season in the Premiership. He should have been using the word "No" when asked about Benito Carbone or Ashley Ward, he should have been given leeway by the chairman Geoffrey Richmond to sign some of the unproven Premiership players that had caught the clubs eye: Bobby Zamora, Tommy Miller, Jason Roberts and the young Nathan Ellington.

After that it should have been building and building at City, a sideways Premiership move to a larger club, imagine if City had been in the Premiership under Jewell for the last three years when the Sunderland job came up, and from success to success to England. That was the plan at least.

So the sack from Sheffield Wednesday some six months later and a division below was a cruel twist of fate for the affable scouser. His return with Wigan alongside Chris Hutchings showed a desire to relearn.

Jewell has the same easy charm now as he did when things were going well at City. So he should, his Wigan side are unbeaten in seven and have just knocked Premiership West Brom out of the League Cup, the aforementioned Ellington getting a hat-trick. Paul Jewell smiles more these days, or at least more than we have seen him do in a long time.

Wigan Athletic are cash rich, owner Dave Whelan has seen to that, but Jewell has restrained in the transfer market. Ellington cost 1.2m and Nicky Law favourite Ian Breckin 250,000 but the fact that Jewell and Law share tastes in central defenders says much about the attitude of the Wigan side Pj has made. Craft smelted to steel, sound familiar?

The Latics are a point off the summit of the second division and play leaders Cardiff on Saturday. The smart money says that both the Welshmen and Jewell's side will be celebrating come May and visiting Valley Parade next season.

Jewell and Whelan seem to have a good relationship, Jewell and Richmond was best described as terse, and with cash available to build on success Jewell seems to have found a home for his talents.

The question back on the table now is how far can those talents take him?

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