A TEAM full of characters with a point to prove.

That is how Paul Jewell best sums up the team who took City to the heights of the Premier League.

It is exactly two decades to the day since the club ended a 77-year wait to return to the top flight.

20th anniversary: Paul Jewell's memories of special day at Wolves

Jewell was just 34 at the time; the rookie manager in charge of a collection of players who had all known disappointment at some stage.

They were a group hungry to show their worth – and formed a squad that no City fan will ever forget.

Jewell recalled: “It doesn’t feel like that long ago. To think my kids would have been nine and seven.

“You wonder where the years have gone but it was certainly a good time for the club.

“I enjoyed working with those players. They were tremendous.

“We all get rejected as people somewhere along the line and they all seemed to have a point to prove.

“The work-rate and honesty of the group was terrific. We had a lot of real men in the team.

“I’m sure I could pick up the phone to any of them and if we did meet up again tomorrow, it would be a bit of a lively event.”

Chairman Geoffrey Richmond had studied the rest of the division during the summer of 1998 and felt it was as good a time as any to have a real push.

Seven signings were made including the club’s first million-pound men, Lee Mills and Isaiah Rankin. Most significantly, Stuart McCall was tempted to return “home”.

Dean Windass would arrive in the March for £950,000 as well as Lee Sharpe.

But it wasn’t all plain sailing. A slow start saw City pick up just five points from their opening seven games and the knives were out for Jewell.

“We had a poor result against Stockport first game of the season and I heard all the rumours after we got beaten by Ipswich that I didn’t have long left as manager,” he added.

“I think we turned it round against Birmingham on a Bank Holiday Monday and never looked back.

“A few in the squad were older than me, so that was quite interesting.

“I had been in the dressing room with some of them under Chris Kamara. But they were special guys and they responded to what we asked them to do.

“There was never an issue with me (about age) because I was never a shrinking violet in the dressing room as a player. I always had an opinion.

“But I tried to treat them with respect. I didn’t have to force the fact that I was manager on them.

“We had a really good bond. We worked so hard in training, but it was enjoyable, and it was great to deal with a group who were all winners.”

Jewell also had to deal with the hands-on approach of Richmond. That partnership would suddenly end the following summer but for that promotion campaign, he would have no complaints with the chairman.

“It was easy because we were winning games.

“Geoffrey gave me my opportunity and I’d like to think I paid him back.

“Okay, he probably got a bit too big for his boots as we went on. But I don’t want to knock him too much.

“He was difficult but was very good that season we got promoted – everything I asked for, he backed me.

“If we wanted to take the players away for a few days, he’d let us do that.

“He gave me carte blanche. We stayed in good hotels and everything was good.

“For me as a young manager, having to work with a chairman who was very demanding helped me grow up in the job.

“It put me in good stead for the rest of my career in terms of dealing with owners.”

Promotion was clinched at Wolves with a 26th win of the campaign – and only leaders Sunderland had scored more than City’s 82 goals.

Mills finished with 24, Robbie Blake 16 and Peter Beagrie 12. Fittingly, all three scored at Molineux.

Jewell said: “Any promoted team in any league needs two good strikers. We had that as well as Beags chipping in.

“We played 4-4-2 but it was lop-sided because Jamie Lawrence was an absolute work horse on the right but Beagrie was more the luxury player, shall we say.

“They complemented each other, even though they were on opposite sides of the pitch.

“You had Wayne Jacobs who linked up with Beags, (Gareth) Whalley and McCall, Blakey and Mills, there were partnerships all round.

“You know when you’ve got a good team.

“We went to Swindon and were 1-0 after two minutes. I just turned round to the bench and said ‘no worries, we’ve got goals in the team’.

“We beat them 4-1 and Millsy and Blake got two each – Millsy even got sent off last minute for kicking the ball away.

“But it was all about partnerships.

“We didn’t have the best training ground but there was no moaning. Everyone would pile in the cars to drive to Apperley Bridge and then back to the ground to get changed.

“There were strong characters who needed some managing but the spirit in that group was so good.”