PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — David Pettican was a free agent when he received a call from Philadelphia Union minority owner Richie Graham about a job.
The talks ended with Pettican going through an extensive interview process alongside other highly-qualified candidates before being announced as the club’s youth general manager on Tuesday.
Pettican, who coached Graham’s sons in the past, played four seasons at Portsmouth from 1987-91 before turning to coaching after an injury halted his playing career. He’s been involved in youth programs on the east coast for the last 25 years.
“I think being in the area for the past 25 years definitely helped with my vast network of local clubs and connections,” Pettican told Pro Soccer USA. “I don’t know, but I’m guessing that was a deciding factor for the club that they feel like I was a lot more connected than some of the other candidates.”
In the new role created by the club, Pettican will report to Graham and chief business officer Tim McDermott.
“They’re the two people I speak to,” Pettican said. “Tim is primarily my go-to person and the great thing about this position is, because I’m very fortunate to be the first-ever general youth manager, we have a lot of exciting opportunities to start new things and relationships with the communities.”
Since the announcement of Pettican’s new position Tuesday morning, he said he’s had a handful of youth clubs in the area reach out to him, and he expects more phone calls in the coming days as the club looks to build up its youth partnerships.
“My goal as general youth manager is to get as many youth players as possible to be followers of the Philadelphia Union,” Pettican said. “One of the things I was extremely humbled by was these guys have reached out and they feel comfortable to be able to do that. The feedback we’ve been receiving is there hasn’t been a person they can necessarily reach out to to help launch these programs and have a Union connection.”
While there is a business aspect behind the job, and he’ll be reporting to the business sector of the club’s front office, talent identification is not off limits for Pettican as he builds relationships on a local level.
“I don’t want people to feel we’re trying to get into clubs just to identify the best players,” Pettican said. “We truly want to identify fans and supporters just as much as we do talent.
“We’re trying to structure it where we have multiple programs. A program could quite simply be we’re not doing talent identification programs, but we’re maybe doing coach or parent education, we may be doing some skills clinics, we may be doing some events that the club have asked us to do.”
“On another tier, we’ll be specifically doing player identification clinics as well, where if we can identify players who we feel would benefit greatly from the training that the Union pre-academy and academy can provide, we will definitely be recommending those players to Ryan Richter at the pre-academy and Tommy Wilson at the academy levels,” Pettican said.
Pettican has already been in discussions with McDermott about how the club can improve moving into the 2019 season, and until those plans are firmly in place, he’ll be evaluating what is currently in place.
“One of the things we’ve just recently spoke about in the last 24 hours is we have so many great ideas, but let’s focus on three for 2019,” Pettican said. “We have a meeting on Friday where we’re going to pick the three key things we’re going to really put all our attention to.”
“Until that point, my attention is going to be totally on existing programs we have in place that we at the Union can do a better job in,” Pettican said. “Anything we’ve got out there at the moment that’s connected to the Union, I’m going through strategically and saying here’s an area we can do better in.”
The point Pettican kept harping home was the connection the club wants to have with youth sides in the area, and that he wants to be a liaison, for lack of better term, between the Union and the youth clubs in and around Philadelphia.
“The fact that we’ve had instant reach out is a really strong message and we want everyone to reach out,” Pettican said. “If you want Dave Pettican, to come to your board meeting and listen to your board, if you want Dave Pettican to come speak to your soccer club, I want to be that person. I lived that life for 25 years. I started clubs from ground zero. I’ve been a coach, a director of coaching, a technical director, a fundraiser.”
“I’ve done all those things so I think that we can help those clubs as a consultant just on a basis that they feel that we’re neutral,” Pettican said. “There’s no necessary skin in the game for us against them. We want to help them on every single level that they want help from and hopefully from that help comes an ally, comes a supporter, comes someone that will get behind the team.”