Meet all 18 of Dean Smith’s first-team staff – and why they make Aston Villa tick
The head coach wanted to bridge that ever-expanding gap between supporters and players – and expressed a crystal-clear desire to completely change the environment at Bodymoor Heath.
Fast-forward almost a year and it’s clear to see he’s got what he wanted: a strong bond and togetherness amongst staff and players, fans happy, on song and full of belief and, more importantly, Premier League football is back in B6.
Smith leaves no stone unturned while preparing his beloved Villa for any and every challenge they face – and goes into every one of those aiming to win and to look good for it.
Once again this term, the Great Barr gaffer will be looking to get the best out of his players and build on early signs of Premier League promise and will look to cut out costly mistakes while making Villa more ruthless and hard to beat.
To do that, Smith will rely heavily on a number of first-team staff, both temporary and permanent, to support and aide him in the quest for glory.
His full-time first-team staff are listed on the club’s official website and here is a short profile about each of them, as Ashley Preece reports.
Christian Purslow – Chief Executive
He’s the man who makes Villa fans purr every time he speaks, such is his enthusiasm to drive the club forward. Put in charge of the day-to-day running of Villa by owners Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris. Purslow, previously of Chelsea and Liverpool, has been Smith’s go-to man ever since arriving last season. Helped construct transfer dealings throughout this summer and the pair enjoy a strong and close relationship where communication is constant.
Jesus ‘Suso’ Garcia Pitarch – Sporting Director
Always at games, the Spaniard was appointed as the club’s sporting director by Purslow back in October 2018 and, this summer, worked relentlessly to ensure players were scouted and signed, including traveling to Egypt to watch Trezeguet while casting his watchful eye over the likes of Wesley and Marvelous Nakamba. Boasts a vast array of contacts across Europe which built up during his time at both Valencia and Atletico Madrid.
“My role is to be apart of Aston Villa fans, be one of them,” he said previously, “be part of the soul, the sensations. My specific role will help coaches, the academy, management, to improve recruitment, the small details, to improve the level of performances and results of the club.”
Jeremy Oliver – Performance Director
Villa’s performance director moved over from Australia and has played a big part to date, introduced pyrotechnics previously seen at Villa Park and he’s regularly seen watching over the warm-ups before games while, last season, joined in the dressing room celebrations, too. Has spent a considerable amount of time with Villa’s new signings this summer following their respective arrivals.
Richard O’Kelly – Assistant Head Coach
Smith’s tried and trusted right-hand man. The talented and experienced assistant manager is somewhat in the shadows because of John Terry’s presence but don’t under-estimate the cap-wearing coach’s impact. O’Kelly deserves his share of credit for Villa’s remarkable turnaround to date. The former forward spends time with Villa’s strikers and wide players, mustering up game sceneries in which Villa can attack from. An important cog in the Villa back room machine, it has to be said, and a really warm and likeable character.
John Terry – Assistant Head Coach
Growing into such a brilliant coach after swapping his boots and shin pads for pens and pads last October. Leads all the keep-ball warm-up drills and helps get players fine-tuned and focused ready for games. Given a remit of coaching the club’s defenders and has already built up a really strong bond with the likes of Tyrone Mings and Bjorn Engels.
Absolutely loves being out on the training field at Bodymoor Heath and can’t help himself by getting involved sometimes during training games. Will go onto have a successful management career but, in the meantime, is loving life under Smith while working closely with the playing squad.
Neil Cutler – Head Goalkeeping Coach
Signed from rivals West Bromwich Albion back in November, ‘Cuts’ reunited with Smith who first employed the ex-goalie during his time at Walsall. The 43-year-old is a big part of Smith’s back-room team and is often up and out of his seat in the touchline area, offering wise words of wisdom to the likes of Smith, ROK and JT. An incredibly infectious and popular character who works with the club’s four goalkeepers: Tom Heaton, Jed Steer, Lovre Kalinic and Orjan Nyland.
Jack Sharkey – Lead Sports Scientist
A hard-working, well-respected and likeable member of the team. Highly thought-of at Villa and is in the thick of the action on the practice pitches.
His detailed analysis on player performance helps massively while he’s often in charge of putting the substitutes through their paces after matches, making them sprint and run long distances to keep up fitness levels.
Oli Stevenson – Strength and Conditioning Coach
An unsung hero of the group, Oli is the fitness trainer who can be seen on match days warming up the players. He also spends long hours in the gym with injured and improving players. Close friends with Jack Grealish and John McGinn, Oli forms part of the trio that made up the ‘Thursday night food club’ – a pre-match ritual that became a superstition throughout the play-off winning run last term.
A talented right-sided defender, Stevenson was released by Villa in the summer of 2013 and, with the support of the club, embarked upon a career as a coach. After completing a Sports Science degree at Loughborough University and working with the younger age-groups at Bodymoor Heath, he is now a Strength and Conditioning coach with the first team.
Ricky Shamji – Head of Sport Medicine and Science
‘The Doc’ has been at Villa since 2015. He first worked in football for Walsall in 2008. He’s also a consultant in sport and exercise medicine at the Centre for Musculoskeletal Medicine, Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in Birmingham.
Alan Smith – Lead Physio
Rob Marshall – Physio
The New Zealand native worked for Hearts and Sheffield Wednesday before joining Villa in 2015.
John Hartley – Injury Prevention Specialist
Was head of sports medicine at Warrington Wolves previously before joining Villa back in February 2012. Works hard with those coming back from injuries, including captain James Chester this summer who’s now back in and around the first team. Worked alongside Jack Grealish last term as well as the midfielder worked back from a nasty shin injury. Vital in Villa’s medical department, ensuring players are back to full fitness sooner rather than later.
Dr Scott Robinson – Performance Nutritionist
Consultant nutritionist who has worked with the club since 2014. Works closely with other Premier League clubs and world champion boxers including Callum Smith and the Yafai brothers in Birmingham.
Alex Butler – Masseur
A friendly and popular figure who you can’t miss, sports a long ginger beard – and the playing staff love him.
Crucial for recovery after gruelling fixtures, helping to alleviate tension built up in muscles while ensuring players are feeling fresh for the next challenge ahead.
Andrew Smith – Masseur
He’s a soft tissue therapist and a man who performs ‘cupping’ treatment on players while working in tandem with Alex Butler.
David Stewart – Head of Performance Analysis
Joined from QPR in 2016 and leads up the performance analysis team, providing videos and in-depth reports on the playing squad as well as the opposition, helping Smith and his staff prepare for the games ahead as best as possible while leaving no stone unturned.
Have you got a Villa-related story to tell? Do you want to get something off your chest about a recent performance? Or have you got any brilliant match day videos or photographs you’d like to share? Well, you’re in the right place.
Our man said: “I want to get amongst the fan base who pay their hard-earned cash to follow the boys in claret and blue, giving supporters a voice about all things AVFC, whether it’s a talking point from a game or an incident or issue not being dealt with, drop me a line and get in touch. As always, up the Villa!”
You can get in touch with Ashley via the following channels:
Scott Adey-Lynforth – First Team Performance Analyst
He helps Smith and his coaching staff prepare for the games, providing video analysis and player reports.
Joseph Ure – First Team Performance Analyst
Hired from Tottenham in April 2019, where he spent almost three years previously. Works underneath David Stewart and alongside Scott Adey-Lynforth in helping Villa prepare for matches week by week.