Darius Vassell recalls the lively bromance between David O'Leary and J Lloyd Samuel

Former England forward was speaking to Newstalk's Team 33 about his Aston Villa days

Aston Villa, Darius Vassell, David O'Leary, 2004

Aston Villa's manager David O'Leary (r) attempts to use his magic powers to help Darius Vassell in a match against Chelsea in April 2004. Neal Simpson/EMPICS Sport

At the turn of the Millennium, former Ireland defender David O'Leary was able to muster some outstanding performances from a young Leeds United side.

Although O'Leary wasn't in charge at the start of this peak, between 1997-98 and 2001-02, Leeds never finished lower than fifth in the table and also had memorable runs to Champions League and UEFA Cup semi finals.

It was driven by young players like Alan Smith, Lee Bowyer, Jonathan Woodgate and Ian Harte among others.

But an anecdote from Darius Vassell's autobiography The Road To Persia from his time at Aston Villa gives an insight into why O'Leary may have been able to bond so well with a young team at Leeds.

Speaking to Newstalk's Team 33 this week, Vassell expanded on that period when O'Leary was in charge between 2003 and 2006.

You can listen to the full interview with Darius Vassell on the podcast player below or on iTunes:

While one normally expects the relationship between a manager and his players to be filled with a gulf of necessary distance on a personal level, O'Leary at Villa took a different tack.

Indeed, Vassell vividly remembers a very friendly relationship between the Irishman and his squad, particularly with Vassell's friend and team-mate J Lloyd Samuel which was played out to a chorus of mutual fist-bumping and swapping songs on iPods. 

"They really got on really well and David O'Leary is a manager who gets on with his players," Vassell told Team 33 as he chuckled at the memory.

J lloyd Samuel of Aston Villa, during the F.A. Barclaycard premiership game against Derby County at Villa Park.  David Davies/PA Archive/PA Images

"He has a habit of really being able to talk to players about personal stuff, persona lives and where you go out and stuff.

"David O'Leary was really new to Birmingham and J Lloyd was a guy who really reacts to that kind of stuff really well. He's a very outgoing person and they just hit it off right from moment one.

Darius Vassell tells us about Michael Owen's kind gesture after Euro 2004 penalty pain

"Whereas I'm J Lloyd's best mate and I'm not a boring guy but it made a bit of a difficult triangle, so to speak, because David O'Leary wanted more from me, yet he's getting on with my best mate. And I'm at the club and I want to be there scoring all the goals and I'm the one that's down out of the three of us. So I felt a little bit left out of that friendship [at the time], so to speak.

"And you had a job to do under David O'Leary. He's played with and coached some of the best to ever do it. So I had to really get my head down to try and make an impression on him as a manager."

Vassell left his beloved hometown club Villa during O'Leary's time and he explained how that departure to Manchester City came to pass in the full interview. 

Darius Vassell's new autobiography is titled The Road To Persia and you can find more information about it here.