IT was a scorching hot day in Trinidad and Tobago when the head coach of Bradford (Park Avenue)’s academy came up against a youngster who would go on to become one of the best players on the planet.

Saint Kitts and Nevis were doing brilliantly to hold out against soon-to-be world champions Brazil after 75 minutes of their Caribbean Cup 1999 group stage fixture.

However, a moment of madness allowed one player to come into his own and the rest, as they say, is history…

The then 32-year-old defender explained: “There was this midfielder. I told someone to let him know he is in the game. He takes him out completely and gets a red card. They get on top and it was four or five nil. I always remember coming off and thinking about this lad who played in the number 10 shirt.

“I ended up asking because this kid was exceptional. It turned out to be Ronaldinho. He had ability but had not developed physically. You thought he was going to be one to watch in years to come. He turned out to be one hell of a player.”

The man telling that tale is Desmond St. Lloyd Hazel. The Bradfordian carved out a fine playing career in the 1980s and 1990s, making over 250 Football League appearances.

Part One- Hazel on working under Pep and ending up at Avenue

Hazel began his playing days at Sheffield Wednesday in October 1986. After coming through their academy system, he went on to make six senior appearances for the First Division side.

Despite featuring alongside the likes of Nigel Worthington and David Hirst, it was two other players who stood out for the youngster.

“They were great times,” Hazel said. “I was playing in the first team among good experienced players. I think the game was more enjoyable, there was more free expression. The emphasis was on ‘play hard, train hard’, a lot of good faculties which still apply now in the game. A lot of young players back then had the desire to succeed with good values.

“I was at Sheffield Wednesday with the likes of internationals Brain Marwood and Mark Chamberlain, players who played in my position (Hazel started out as a winger), so you learn a lot. Those are the two players who inspired me the most.”

Hazel was also complimentary to manager Howard Wilkinson, who threw him into the professional scene.

He said: “The things that we were doing with Howard (Wilkinson), the press and the closing down, Howard was ahead of his time. I learned a lot from him and I have put that into my coaching as well.”

Millmoor was where Hazel found his home, playing over 200 matches in a seven-year spell at Rotherham, up and down the Football League.

The 52-year-old explained why he moved there and said he can’t understand players who don’t follow suit.

“I moved to Rotherham to get first team football,” Hazel said. “I don’t know if the younger players today would do that now, they would rather stay at these professional clubs and pick their wages up and not play. I don’t understand that for one moment.

“It was a different era and times. I wanted to learn about the game and in order to do that, you need to be in a first team.”

A spell at Chesterfield followed and then a move to Australia transpired. Although, during that transitional period before deciding to go Down Under, a chance arose to star for Chris Kamara’s rampant Bantams.

Hazel recalled: “Chris Kamara was the manager at Bradford and I did go on trial, but the opportunity to go to Australia came about so I took that. I learned a lot going out there, another great experience which prolonged my career. It was a massive learning curve.”

After such a promising start to his career at a big club like Wednesday, many may think Hazel underachieved in his career.

The pacey winger disagrees, but does believe if he was transferred into this generation it could have all turned out differently.

He said: “It was an era where it was brutal if you were a flair player. That got compounded with very aggressive tackling, tackles from behind. When you played you had to look after yourself, you did grow up.

“I would have loved to play in this era because more of the emphasis is on ball retention and skill.”

From an excellent playing career to scouting some of the best, the Avenue coach has had one thrilling ride in his many years in the game.