Upon hanging up his boots, David Wetherall happened upon a new passion for within the game and in his current position as the EFL’s Youth Development Director, the former Bradford City captain is helping to produce the next generation.
The former South Yorkshire-born defender, who started his playing days at his hometown Club Sheffield Wednesday before moving on to Leeds United, made over 500 appearances throughout his career, eventually finishing up at Bradford.
It was there that he took his career in a new direction when the Club offered him a role within the Bantams Academy setup.
“I moved on to the coaching staff at Bradford and had a year in the first-team environment assisting Stuart McCall, and then, as is so often the case, there was a reshuffle of staff and I was asked if I’d be interested in becoming Academy manager which I did,” he explained, speaking on the Official EFL Podcast.
“Within probably two or three weeks of taking that role, I knew that youth development was where I wanted to be rather than the first-team environment. I really enjoyed the processes and the long-term view of coaching and developing players at that time.
“When I transitioned into the Academy space from the first-team environment, I’d been in that first-team environment all of my working life. It was a change and a refreshing change, and something I enjoyed right from minute one.”
A matter of 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 within the field of youth development on his side.
“Primarily, we have a team of regional managers who are out there supporting the Clubs to improve and enhance their Academy processes and operations,” he said. “The real fundamental part of my job is managing that department and the staff within that department to help and assist the Clubs to get better and improve.
“We obviously have a strategic approach to this; we work closely with the Premier League to try and develop the system from a rules and operational perspective.”
Wetherall highlighted record-breaking figures from Clubs across the Sky Bet Championship, Sky Bet League One and Sky Bet League Two.
He cited recent figures which demonstrate a pathway from Academies to the first-team.
“It’s worth mentioning that the outcomes of players from EFL Academies, the positive outcomes are improving,” he continued. “We’ve got a record high percentage of EFL Academy players who have come through the Academy at that Club – that’s 27% of the EFL professional population have come through the Academy at that Club.
“The appearances in the starting 11 of Club developed players – that’s players that have been at a Club for at least 12 months before the end of the Under-19s season – that’s been increasing season-on-season over the last five seasons; that’s gone up 18% which is a record high.”
With Gareth Southgate’s squad announcement for the upcoming World Cup imminent, he also recognised the role that the system has played in producing some of England’s brightest stars.
🦁🏴 #RaisedInTheEFL 💪— EFL (@EFL) November 10, 2022
EFL's Youth Development Director David Wetherall was on last week's #OfficialEFLPodcast to discuss the success of the 72 Clubs in developing the stars of the future. 💫#EFL pic.twitter.com/KfC5uSdkYB
“Previous squads have shown a really high level of EFL involvement in the development of players,” he added. “The odds are there’ll be plenty of players in there who have spent some time in one way shape or form in the EFL.
“People always talk about one of the strengths of the game being the pyramid that we’ve got in this country and it’s just the same in the Academy system as well. There are good players being developed in all levels of the Academy system and the game. A number of the players who might be developed at smaller Clubs go on and progress to careers at the very top of the game.”