The man in blue

Ipswich Town manager Paul Jewell talks to Roger Hermiston and Eileen Wise about family, politics, man-management and his new home on the Suffolk/Essex border

"I open the door of my office and the first face I see is Sir Alf (Ramsey). I think you have to be very respectful of the past but not fearful of looking forward... Sir Alf, Sir Bobby... Sir Paul?!"

The words come tumbling out, nineteen to the dozen, and the humour is dry – and plentiful. Paul Jewell, the man who has lifted the gloom at Portman Road after the dismal final months of the Keane era, is the authentic Liverpudlian, articulate, witty and never inclined to take himself too seriously.

On the day we met him at the club’s impressive Playford Road training ground, the biggest laugh – and there were many – came when he explained what it felt like to be following in the footsteps of the legendary Ipswich Town managers.

"I open the door of my office and the first face I see as I look out is Sir Alf (in a photograph on the wall). I think you have to be very respectful of the past, and history, but not fearful of looking forward... Sir Alf, Sir Bobby… Sir Paul?!"

A self-deprecating moment, certainly, but with a touch of wish fulfillment thrown in. Jewell knows that the life of a top-rank football manager is a precarious one, but he’d love to be in Suffolk for the long-term and guide Ipswich back to the glory days.

"One of the reasons why I found this such an attractive job is that Ipswich haven’t got a track record of dismissing managers lightly. You’ve got to have some stability at a club, and listen, at the end of the day as a manager all you’re asking for is a fair crack of the whip.

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"The only certain thing about football is the uncertainty – who knows where you might be next week, never mind next year. But I hope I’m here for the next ten years – that will mean we’ve been successful."

Jewell was talking in relaxed fashion after taking the morning training session. His functional room has few adornments – just a desk, two black leather sofas and chairs, a white board with the names of players on it (some of them ominously marked with a red asterisk) and, on the opposite wall, the plan of a football pitch with magnetic pieces to indicate team positions. The impression given is that this is a man – dressed in sweatshirt top (with the initials PJ emblazoned on it) and tracksuit bottoms – who is happiest out there on the pitch with his players.

When Jewell got that call out of the blue from Marcus Evans back in January, he wasted little time in accepting the invitation. After talks with the owner in Ireland on a Saturday, and then with chief executive Simon Clegg the following day at Portman Road, he enthusiastically signed on the bottom line that Monday.

"It was as quick as that. I even forgot to consult my wife! I rang her up and said, Ipswich want me as manager, how are you with that?!"

Jewell, aged 46, is married to Ann-Marie and they have two grown-up children Sam (21) and Alexandra (19). The couple met nearly 25 years ago when he was an apprentice at Liverpool, and it was in unusual circumstances.

"Our wages would get paid into the bank, �50 a week in those days – of which I used to give my Ma a fiver! So every Friday I’d get on the bus and go into town to draw my wages. Well, Ann-Marie worked there, and when I went in one day she asked me out!"

Their son Sam is a gifted golfer who represented his county and tried to pursue a professional career. But he’s now followed his father into the football business, having recently found a job scouting for young players. Alexandra is going to Sheffield University next year.

From childhood Jewell had always been aware of the excellent reputation of Ipswich Town Football Club.

"Wherever I’ve been in football, people have always said simply ‘Ipswich – good club’. It’s always had good traditions, good playing standards. As a kid I remember watching the football highlights on a Sunday afternoon, and whenever the cameras went to Portman Road the ground always seemed to be packed, with a crackling atmosphere.

"Muhren, Thyssen, Wark, Gates, and Cooper saving eight penalties in a season – I remember those games in the 70s and 80s and all those great players."

Although Jewell was actually born in Scotland Road, Liverpool – a working-class area home to many of the city’s migrant communities – he spent 21 of his first 23 years in the Walton district, not too far from the Anfield football ground.

His father Billy, an engineer, was a profound influence on his life. "I miss my dad more than anything (he died of a brain tumour 17 years ago). He was my best pal, and a man of strong, strong principles.

"He worked on the shop floor, and would never do overtime at a time of unemployment because he thought he would be stopping someone getting a job. He stuck by his values to the letter, and I admired him for that, he was a great guy."

Billy Jewell was a trade union activist and his son remembers being hoisted on to his shoulders in the 70s for many ‘right to work’ marches, as well as protesting against the three-day week, and for the miners.

The young Jewell was keenly interested in politics, reading about – amongst others – the lives and times of Lenin and Trotsky; his family even today has a pet tortoise named after the latter! He’s a great admirer of the Labour stalwart Tony Benn.

But even though he can engage compellingly, if pressed, about issues like the war in Afghanistan and the neglect of Africa, the absence of ideology and the blurring of party political lines has left him somewhat disillusioned with politics today.

"I look at politics now and I think, they’re no different, no matter who’s in charge, Labour or the Conservatives. I think it’s all spin – we live in an age of spin, don’t we? These days you often feel we only get to find out what our political masters want us to find out.

"I didn’t like Thatcher, I’ve got to be honest with you, but I knew what she stood for; she didn’t try to pull the wool over my eyes. Equally with Norman Tebbit, when he said ‘Get on your bike’ I knew where he was coming from, what side he was on. That’s why I liked Tony Benn, he had opinions and he could back them up."

Jewell passed his 11-plus, which enabled him to win a place at the Catholic De La Salle Grammar School in Liverpool. He’s modest about his academic potential. "It must have been multiple choice that day and I just picked the right answers", he jokes, but in any case, from a very early age, he was intent on becoming a professional footballer.

The brothers at De La Salle wouldn’t allow their pupils to train at Liverpool or Everton – they wanted them to concentrate fully on their studies. But after being approached by scouts, young Jewell defied his teachers and secretly went to Anfield two nights a week for training. Then, at the time he was doing his O’levels, he was offered an apprenticeship by Liverpool.

It was, in one respect, his misfortune to be joining Liverpool in the middle of perhaps their greatest era, when they were winning domestic and European trophies galore with the likes of Kenny Dalglish, Ian Rush, Graeme Souness and Alan Hansen in the side.

So while he was a regular in the reserves, he never quite made it into the first team. The days of a bench packed with seven substitutes were years away, but the young striker was 13th man for two away games at Arsenal and Newcastle, and also involved in a European Cup tie against Dinamo Bucharest.

For Jewell, what happened on the plane back from that game in Rumania best illustrated the ‘Liverpool Way’, the club’s ruthless and successful approach.

"There was no celebration, there was no champagne on the way home. I just remember trainer Ronnie Moran coming to the back of the plane and telling the likes of Phil Thompson, Jimmy Beglin, Steve Nicol and myself not to forget to be in for training very early the next day.

"The club had just reached the final of the European Cup but the staff were focused on a reserve team game. That philosophy stuck with me – enjoy your success, but don’t dwell on it and concentrate instead on the next task ahead."

In his senior career spanning 11 years, Jewell played for Wigan Athletic, Bradford City and Grimsby Town, making 411 appearances and scoring 92 goals.

"I was technically okay and I had a decent football brain, but I had no pace. When I look back on my time as a player I think I probably should have done a little bit better. I probably didn’t have that belief that top players have got – and which I believe I have as a manager."

In fact, coaching and management always attracted the analytically minded Jewell. As a young player at the age of 22, he started on the road of building up his qualifications, making long journeys on a Sunday morning, first to the Marley stadium in Keighley and later to Carrington in Manchester, to attend lessons and gain his coaching badges.

His break into management came in January 1998 when his good colleague and friend Chris Kamara was sacked as Bradford City manager and Jewell – who had just started to look after the reserves – was installed, temporarily, in his place.

"The chairman asked me to take over for the next match away at Stockport. Now the fans didn’t really want me as manager, I was just an ordinary player/coach and they wanted a bigger name; there was talk that Joe Royle would get the job.

"If we’d lost that match against Stockport it could well have been the beginning and end of my managerial career; who knows where I would be now. But fate willed that we won, 2-1, and that was the start of it all."

Jewell subsequently steered Bradford into the Premiership in 1999, a startling feat he repeated with Wigan in 2005. Those were the solid achievements that attracted the attention of Marcus Evans, rather than the less successful, shorter spells he had in charge of Sheffield Wednesday (2000-2001) and Derby County (2007-2008).

You suspect that while he is certainly technically and tactically adroit, Jewell’s man management skills have played a very big part in his success. He’s an affable and approachable man, but there’s also a tough inner core to his personality.

"I do all I can to build positive energy, positive thoughts. When I was a player I used to daydream about the match on a Saturday, imagining I was going through for a one-on-one with the keeper – but I can’t ever remember scoring! So I was almost beaten before I’d even stepped on to the pitch.

"We’ve all got deficiencies, we’re all human beings, and we all make mistakes. But I say to my players – it may sound silly – but when you go to bed on a Friday night, if you’re a goalkeeper, think about saving penalties, or if you’re a striker, think about celebrating a goal rather than dreaming about the disappointment of missing. Real, strong self-belief is what separates the top players from the rest."

Jewell’s family home remains in Menston, an attractive village near Ilkley in West Yorkshire. But the town manager has now settled happily in Dedham, where he shares a rented house with Town coach Sean McCarthy.

"It’s a lovely place, not dissimilar to Menston – both also get a lot of tourists – and people here have been very warm and friendly. I don’t get to spend much time out and about, but Sean and I like to walk up to the Marlborough Head pub for a couple of beers around six o’clock before I go home and do the cooking."

A ten-handicapper, he’s managed to find time to play a little golf, once at the Felixstowe club at the invitation of the captain, and another time at Woodbridge with Charlie Woods, former Ipswich player and coach.

Another relaxation is the guitar, which he took up during his two years out of football. "My dad was a good musician, a good guitarist. But me – I play anything…badly!"

The Jewells like to holiday in Orlando, Florida, where they have a house in a village called Celebration. "It’s like something out of the Stepford Wives, it’s one of those places where no-one knows you. I’ll probably go out for a quick visit this summer and play a bit of golf before coming back to prepare for next season."

A full-time move to Suffolk would certainly be on the cards if Jewell and Ipswich progress onwards and upwards.

"Manager’s jobs are not that secure, which always makes you wary. If I had a young family I’d certainly move here lock, stock and barrel. But I’m committed as I can be, I’m based here, and I’d love to be here for the next ten years: if I am, I’ll certainly have a house here!"

Jewell enjoys the parts of a football manager’s job that are not so visible to the fans – such as coming out to Playford Road each Sunday and watching the Ipswich youth teams playing, from the Under 9s through to the Under 16s.

"I was watching an Under 14 game the other week, and a mother came up to me and said, ‘I’d like to tell you, my son’s playing at right-back, and because you’re watching him it makes him feel so wonderful, it makes a big difference’.

"I thought that was terrific. We probably underestimate what it means to the kids and their parents. To have that feelgood factor was great."

Shrewdly, Jewell won’t allow himself to be shackled by any cast-iron commitments to immediate promotion from the Championship. He merely says: "The long-term objective is to get us into the Premiership, there’s no doubt about it, but that’s also the objective of about 16 other teams. So we’ve no God-given right.

"As long as we’re clearly progressing we’ll be doing ok. Now I want to progress very, very quickly, but if it has to be gradual, so be it."

If energy, enthusiasm and a quick wit are the qualities required to be a successful manager, then Paul Jewell has them in abundance, and Ipswich Town can now look forward to better days.