Premier League Clubs Managed: Bradford City (1999-2000), Wigan Athletic (2005-2007), Derby County (2007-2008)
Paul Jewell’s management career has been a mixed bag, as was his time as a Premier League manager. He experienced a range of emotions – from keeping Bradford City in the top-flight against the odds in 2000 to experiencing the pain of relegation eight years later with a hopeless Derby County side.
Jewell grew up on Merseyside and in his playing days, was an apprentice at Liverpool FC. However, he never broke into the first-team ranks and moved to Wigan Athletic in December 1984. He made 137 appearances for the Latics and would later return to the club in a management capacity. He went to Bradford City in June 1988 which is where he spent the bulk of his remaining playing days.
Paul featured in the squad setup at Valley Parade for the best part of a decade, appearing 269 times in the first-team and scoring 56 times. By this stage, coaching was already interesting him and it would be the Bantams’ where he would experience his first taste of management.
Bradford won promotion from Division Two in 1996 under the guidance of Chris Kamara. Jewell was already on the coaching team as Kamara’s no.2. When he was sacked, owner Geoffrey Richmond turned to Jewell, initially on an interim basis. He was given the job full-time after impressing in 21 games as a caretaker and their ambition was clear. That was to get Bradford into the Premier League.
A serious promotion challenge was launched ahead of the 1998-1999 season. He broke the club’s transfer record twice that summer and also brought Stuart McCall back to the club following his successful spell in Scotland with Rangers. It took a while for things to gel and Bradford won just one of their first seven matches that season. However, they went on an excellent run of form as autumn turned to winter and established themselves as the leading candidate to be promoted along with runaway leaders Sunderland.
Ipswich Town and Birmingham City were their closest challengers but a 3-2 victory on the final day at Molineux over Wolverhampton Wanderers saw Bradford return to the top-flight after a 77-year absence.
Beating Liverpool to survive
The 1999-2000 campaign was always going to be a battle against survival. That was despite adding further Premier League experience with the likes of Peter Atherton, Ian Nolan and Dean Saunders joining the ranks. Bradford did win on the opening day 1-0 at Middlesbrough and pulled off a shock home victory over Arsenal too but they were at the wrong end of the table for much of the season.
The Bantams’ were battling to avoid relegation along with Wimbledon, Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday. Going into the final day of the season, Derby were safe and Sheffield Wednesday relegated. It was down to a straight shootout between Wimbledon and Bradford. Wimbledon began one point ahead and it looked like Bradford had the harder fixture too. With a weaker goal difference, only victory against Liverpool FC would be enough to have a realistic chance of survival. David Wetherall’s header was enough to beat the Reds. Wimbledon lost 2-0 at Southampton, so they went down and Bradford survived against the odds.
However, all was not well between owner and manager. In the media, Richmond called Bradford’s 17th-place finish “a disappointment.” Jewell was furious and tendered his resignation. This was rejected but eventually, he was placed on gardening leave. Richmond believed that even though he was still contracted to the club, Paul has instigated a move to become Sheffield Wednesday manager. Whether it was true or not in terms of this approach is unclear. However, a compensation package was eventually agreed and Jewell left for a new challenge at Hillsborough.
Further ambition with Wigan
The Sheffield Wednesday experience was not good. Jewell was sacked just eight months after arriving with the debt-ridden club struggling near the bottom of Division One. In June 2001, he dropped down to the third-tier with Wigan Athletic. The aim was like with Bradford – to guide a fairly modest club into the upper echelon of English football.
In 2003, the first part of this jigsaw was achieved with promotion to Division One and the Latics’ nearly made the playoffs in their first campaign at this level. In the end, Jewell’s team were pipped to sixth spot on the final day by Crystal Palace – who would ultimately end up being promoted to the Premier League. A year later, Wigan were stronger for that near-miss. On the final day of the season, they held off their rivals to take the second automatic promotion spot and bring top-flight football to Lancashire for the first time.
Wigan’s first game at Premier League level was against champions Chelsea. They played exceptionally well but were denied a point by a late winner from Hernan Crespo. Two games later, they achieved their first victory over Sunderland and it started an incredible run of form which included a six-game winning run. Wigan were in the dizzy heights of second position by mid-November and although form levelled out in the second half of the campaign, they still finished a fabulous 10th in the final standings. There was also a run to the League Cup final but that ended in a harrowing 4-0 loss at the Millennium Stadium to Manchester United.
Stressful second season syndrome
The 2006-2007 season was not as straightforward for Jewell. His side struggled all season for consistency and flirted with relegation for much of the campaign. On the final day, Wigan travelled to Bramall Lane in the bottom three. For Jewell, it was a similar story to the 2000 escape act with Bradford. Wigan had to win or they would be relegated.
It was a turbulent afternoon against relegation rivals Sheffield United. Paul Scharner gave Wigan an early lead, before Jon Stead pegged the home side level with a brave header. On the stroke of half-time, David Unsworth struck a penalty to put Wigan back infront. They managed to hold on in the second half, despite being reduced to 10 men. Ultimately, it was the Blades’ who were relegated. The relief on Jewell’s face on the final whistle was palpable as he was embraced by Wigan’s coaching staff. The stress of being under pressure had evidently shown. A day later, he resigned as manager.
He told the club’s website: “I have made this decision with a heavy heart but I feel it is time for me to have a break from football.”
The impossible job at Derby
Jewell stuck to his word and took six months out of the game, despite being linked to various roles, including jobs with Leicester City and the Republic of Ireland international position.
In November 2007, he answered the call of Derby County; two days after Billy Davies departed the Rams. However, the task he acquired was virtually impossible. This Derby squad is still the worst-ever team to have played in the Premier League. They went down with just 11 points and Jewell failed to win a single match between his appointment and relegation being confirmed in March 2008. His sole win was on penalties in an FA Cup tie against Sheffield Wednesday.
He stayed on despite the relegation but left right at the end of 2008 after a stuttering start to the Championship season which left Derby in 18th position in the table. His last managerial role came at Ipswich Town between January 2011 and October 2012. Although there was a League Cup semi-final appearance, not much else went right in Suffolk. He celebrated his 550th game as manager during his Ipswich reign but left by mutual consent after a couple of heavy away defeats shortly afterwards.
Paul Jewell’s most successful period in his management career was at Wigan Athletic but it will probably be his final day escape act with Bradford City that will be his best achievement when it comes to looking back at his managerial legacy.