IT’S A common query among visiting press men at Valley Parade.

“The two O’Connors at the back must be related?”

Playing side by side, hailing from a similar corner of Ireland, it’s an easy misconception.

And listening to Anthony O’Connor, there’s a sense of a big brother’s pride when asked about Paudie’s progress.

The younger of the centre halves, five years Anthony’s junior at 23, has been earning rave reviews with his improved performances under the tutelage of Mark Trueman and Conor Sellars.

The decision of the interim bosses to revert to a flat back four, moving away from the more open three-man system pursued by Stuart McCall, has seen a much tighter attitude to City.

And nobody has looked more comfortable operating in a more traditional shape than Paudie O’Connor.

The former Leeds prospect has just reached his second anniversary as a Bantams player after initially signing on loan under David Hopkin.

Gary Bowyer made that move permanent before the start of last season – but it has taken until now to see the best of the aggressive defender.

His front-foot displays have certainly earned the admiration of the man beside him at the heart of City’s backline.

“You see him growing every week,” said Anthony. “He wears his heart on his sleeve every game.

“He’s a good lad around the changing room, a really down-to-earth boy.

“But on the pitch, he’s a warrior and gives his all to try and keep clean sheets and get three points for the team.

“Paudie is still a young lad, he’s only 23.

“He signed last season and was in and out of the team. But this year he’s been more or less an ever-present and I think that has helped him.”

The Irish links – by geography if not blood – have also helped to cement their understanding in a defence that had conceded only twice in the five unbeaten games since City made the change at the helm.

“Paudie and I have known each other for a couple of years. We’ve got a lot in common – we’ve got the same name!

“We both come from Ireland and know each other inside out now.

“We’re quite close to each other in Ireland – he’s from Limerick and I’m from Cork. We’ve similar accents so naturally click together.

“We talk about home quite a lot and being in Ireland, different things going on back there and just normal chit-chat.

“On the pitch, we’re both vocal players. We like to be loud and help others around us and that just helps us even more.

“The more we play together now, the better we’ll get and the clean sheets will only help that.”

O’Connor acknowledged the switch in system has made City harder to play against and provided the foundations that had been lacking in the more open way that McCall had his team operating.

“Changing to a back four isn’t really much of a difference for me or Paudie,” he said.

“But it just makes you a bit more solid. Everyone knows their jobs.

“We played a different way earlier in the season under Stuart. We were quite expansive and tried to play flowing football.

“On the opposite side of that, when we lost the ball, we were quite open to a lot of counter-attacks. I think a lot of teams recognised that.

“But that was just the way it was going for us. There were a lot of 1-0 defeats and fine margins.”

City’s unexpected winter “break” from the back-to-back postponements does provide some quality time on the training ground after the glut of games that greeted the two new managers.

O’Connor has admired their approach in getting the message over to the players.

“It’s been simple details and now we’ve had a bit more time they can get some more ideas across and a bit more what they are looking for.

“They don’t overcomplicate things. It’s stuff that we’d know a lot about already but it’s important that we listen to what they have to say.

“They’ve been giving us a lot of detail of what we’re going to come up against and different formations that the opposition might play.

“They split us up into group – we’re one side of the pitch and the attackers on the other. They work with units to get the ideas across where they want us to be positionally and things like that.

“We’re 100 per cent ready going into games now. That’s not to say we weren’t before but there’s just that little bit extra gone into it lately.

“Whether that’s improving us or helping us get results, it may be so.”

O’Connor admits there is one area where both central defenders need to step up – getting their names on the scoresheet.

“That’s something we’ve pointed out. We need to score more goals from set-pieces.

“I’ve got one in the FA Cup and Paudie’s got one in the league but we both feel that’s not enough for us.

“We should be getting more with how aggressive we are in the air and the quality of balls coming into the box.

“Whoever is taking it, Elliot (Watt) or Billy (Clarke), they put the ball on the money more often than not.

“We’re not scoring enough from set-pieces so hopefully we can get a few more.”