Videos, the Ox and £82m of Premier League talent: Southampton legend Jason Dodd on the incredible record of Sheffield Wednesday coach Paul Williams

Luke Shaw was in the midst of the busiest time of his career when he pressed send.

By Alex Miller
Thursday, 25th March 2021, 5:30 pm

Then just 18 years old, the left-back was at the centre of a whirlwind £30m transfer to Manchester United and was less than 10 days from boarding a flight that would take him to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup. Shaw was one of the hottest properties in world football, with million of interested parties watching his every move.

“Gutted for Doddsy and Willo,” he wrote in a Twitter post post that attracted headlines across the national media. “Helped me a lot in my development over the years. Wish them all the best in their careers.”

In response to a tweet by a journalist on the same subject matter soon afterwards, Shaw wrote simply “Wrong decision”.

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He was responding to the breaking story that his club Southampton had decided to part ways with an academy coaching team that had brought him and many others through the ranks and onto the highest stage of football.

That coaching team was Saints legend Jason Dodd and Paul Williams also a former player at the club who seven years has been named as Darren Moore’s first team coach in a new set-up at Sheffield Wednesday.

“I knew Willo was out of work and was looking to get back in, so I asked him to get on board,” Dodd tells The Star, looking back on their first post together when he was brought in as caretaker manager at League Two Aldershot in 2009.

Williams, who had played with Dodd at Southampton, had previously done some coaching in the US and in the academy at Wolves.

Sheffield Wednesday are in safe hands with new first team coach Paul Williams, says his former partner in crime Jason Dodd.

“We went in there for about six or eight weeks and we clicked,” Dodd said. “We worked really well together. His work ethic, the level of detail he gave us. And we did really well.

“Not long after I was installed as Southampton’s under-18 coach and there was a vacancy for an assistant. Straight away I recommended Willo. He came in for an interview, the club were chuffed to bits with him and it was done.”

The pair took the older end of the club’s youth set-up for five years before their controversial departure, working under Alan Pardew, Nigel Adkins and latterly Mauricio Pochettino in one of the most successful periods of youth development from one club in British football history.

Alongside Shaw came the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Ward-Prowse, Calum Chambers, Sam Gallagher and Harrison Reed. There were others, but those names alone have earned the club somewhere in the region of £82m in transfer fees.

If Williams can get half the same tune out of the youngsters and indeed senior players at Wednesday in the coming months, the Owls will be onto a winner.

“Don’t get me wrong, when you get to coaching lads of that sort of age group our job was basically about polishing them up,” said Dodd, now head of football at Winchester College. “We had great coaches working beneath us and we worked really well with them.

“We knew there were some special kids who were coming through, we got to know all about them. And that’s what Willo is really good at, he finds out what makes each boy tick, he knows how to get the best out of them.

“The players should take all the credit because they put the work in. But there was a lot of work that went on behind the scenes that people don’t tend to know about. He was a big leader of that, making sure we knew everything about the players to make them better on the football field. He was meticulous.

“Some needed an arm around the shoulder, some needed a kick up the bum and some were easier than others.

“You find with some lads, you explain things to them on the grass and they get it right away. Some aren’t that way and you’d have to take the time to do some video with them or whatever, it’s all about that understanding of what each individual player’s needs are and carrying out that help.

“And Willo is really top class at that sort of thing. He’s got a good eye for people.”

Out of a full-time coaching since leaving Norwich City in February last year, Williams has thrown himself into the deep end with Wednesday, who are battling relegation from the Championship.

Alongside his long-time assistant Jamie Smith, Darren Moore has assembled a tight-knit coaching trio that is hard at work in what feels like a vitally important international break for the club.

“You want him on your team,” said Dodd on Williams. “If you’re having a bit of a struggle you want him in the trenches with you. He’s tough and he’s got a pair of balls on him. That’s what I liked about him when I played with him and I liked it about his coaching.

“He’s a player’s coach. The players will take to him straight away. And he won’t take any prisoners, if someone needs to be told, they’ll be told. But he won’t just tell you to do it, he’ll take it upon himself to help you get there.

“Darren knows what he’s doing and he knows the sort of blend he needs around him. Paul is first and foremost a brilliant coach, he’s brilliant on the grass, and Darren will know he’ll be able to get on with what he needs to do and Willo will carry out everything he’s after.

“I think it’s a really good fit for everyone. He really deserves to be at a first team level at a club like Sheffield Wednesday. Willo hasn’t got the rewards and the pat on the back he deserves because he’s excellent, he really is.”

Sheffield Wednesday’s players are in excellent hands when it comes to their new first team coach, according to a man who knows him better than anyone.

If you don’t believe him, ask Luke Shaw.

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