Hanging up his boots, David Wetherall stumbled upon a new passion for the game and in his current role as EFL director of youth development, the former Bradford City captain is helping to produce the next generation.
The South Yorkshire-born former defender, who began his playing days at his hometown Club Sheffield on Wednesday before moving to Leeds United, has made over 500 appearances throughout his career, eventually ending up at Bradford.
It was there that he gave his career a new direction when the club offered him a role within the Bantams Academy setup.
“I moved on to the Bradford coaching staff and spent a year in the first-team environment helping Stuart McCall and then, as is so often the case, there was a staff reshuffle. and I was asked if I would be interested. by becoming director of the Academy, which I did,” he explained, speaking on the official EFL podcast.
“From probably two or three weeks after taking on this role, I knew youth development was where I wanted to be rather than the first-team environment. I really appreciated the processes and the long-term view of training and player development at that time.
“When I made the transition to the Academy space from the first-team environment, I had been in that first-team environment all my professional life. It was a change and a refreshing change. , and something that I appreciated from the first minute.
A few years later, the 51-year-old was applied for his current role at the EFL where he works alongside a network of clubs across the League, with 15 years in the youth development field on his side. .
“Primarily, we have a team of regional directors who support clubs to improve and improve their Academy processes and operations,” he said. “The real fundamental part of my job is managing this department and the staff in this department to help and help clubs improve and improve.
“We obviously have a strategic approach to this; we are working closely with the Premier League to try to develop the system from a rules and operational perspective.
Wetherall highlighted club record numbers in the Sky Bet Championship, Sky Bet League One and Sky Bet League Two.
He cited recent figures which demonstrate a progression from the academies to the first team.
“It should be mentioned that the results of the players from the EFL academies, the positive results are improving,” he continued. “We have a record percentage of EFL Academy players who have come through the Academy at this club – that’s 27% of the professional EFL population who have come through the Academy at this club.
“The starting XI appearances of club-developed players – that is, players who have been at a club for at least 12 months before the end of the Under-19 season – which increased by season on season over the last five seasons; it has increased by 18%, which is a record.
With the imminent announcement of Gareth Southgate’s squad for the next World Cup, he also acknowledged the role the system has played in producing some of England’s brightest stars.
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“Previous teams have shown a very high level of EFL involvement in player development,” he added. “Chances are there are a lot of players in there who have spent time in some form or one-sided form in the EFL.
“People always talk about one of the strengths of the game being the pyramid we have in this country and it’s the same in the Academy system as well. There are good players being developed at all the levels of the Academy system and the game. A number of players who could be developed at smaller clubs go on and progress to careers at the top of the game.”