Aaron Danks completes Aston Villa's new-look coaching team
Written by Simon Austin — September 3, 2021
AARON DANKS has been appointed first-team coach at Aston Villa as manager Dean Smith rebuilds his backroom staff following the exit of assistants John Terry and Richard O’Kelly earlier this summer.
The hire follows that of Scot Austin MacPhee, who joined from FC Midtjylland to become specialist set piece coach last month.
Danks joins from Anderlecht, where he was assistant to Vincent Kompany for just three months. The Midlander has an impressive and interesting CV that involves long stints with the Football Association and West Brom. Here's some more background on him:
1. COACHING THROUGH THE LEVELS
Danks is a Uefa Pro Licence coach who has earned his stripes working with different age groups, at different levels and in different disciplines.
His career began with Birmingham City, where he was Community Football Development Officer and then Academy coach. In 2005, he moved to nearby West Brom, working under Dan Ashworth, who was Academy Manager and then Technical Director for the Baggies before joining the Football Association.
Danks worked throughout the ages, from Under-12s coach to becoming Head of the Professional Development Phase (U18s to U23s). He also had a two-year stint as Head of Academy Analysis.
In June 2016, he joined Ashworth at the FA, becoming Lead Specialist Coach in an innovative new department that had been set up by Technical Director Ashworth, Head of Coaching Matt Crocker and Head of Strategy and Performance Dave Reddin.
Danks worked with the different age group teams with a particular focus on in-possession coaching.
2. AN 'INNOVATIVE AND FORWARD-THINKING LEADER’
Speaking at TGG’s Individual Development Coaching Webinar in June, Crocker explained: “At the time we had about 12 specialist coaches across goalkeeping, in-possession and out-of-possession.”
Danks played a key role in developing the ‘England Playbook’ in 2016/17. This was an interactive and ever-evolving document that broke the game down into in-possession, out-of-possession, transition and goalkeeping.
Crocker added: “That was a really outstanding piece of work which the FA still has access to now, which helps to support players when they come into camp or new members of staff about how we work and what we want to do on and off the field.”
Danks went on to become Head of Specialist Coaching and Crocker, who is now Director of Football at Southampton, described him as an “innovative, forward-thinking leader”, who provided “not only support, but also high-level challenge.”
“He was a pioneer in that field and had a big influence on me and my view of individual coaching.”
After Ashworth, Reddin and Crocker left the FA, the specialist coaching team was disbanded, meaning several redundancies and Danks having a short stint as assistant to Aidy Boothroyd with the England U21s.
In June this year, he left the FA to become assistant at Belgian side Anderlecht.
3. UP CLOSE WITH STEPH CURRY
As part of his work with the FA’s specialist coaching team, Danks had gone on a study trip to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA, as Crocker recalled.
“Somehow, Aaron unbelievably blagged his way into spending a full day with the Golden State Warriors coaches.
“This then resulted in him being in the locker room before a big NBA play-off game and pitch-side an hour before the game started, with Steph Curry and his individual development coach, where they were working on his three-point shooting.
“It hit home to me - and I remember seeing the videos Danksy shared - if it (individual development coaching) is good enough for the best player in the world, then surely it’s got to be good enough throughout football?
“How many times do we look at our training grounds and see sessions finished and see general work going on with players and shooting drills that could be much more specific?”