The Ones That Got Away…Neil Danns
Full Name: Neil Danns
Date of Birth: 23rd November 1982, Liverpool
Signed: August 2002 (First professional contract after initially being a trainee)
Left: December 2004 (Sold to Colchester United)
Clubs (Prior to Rovers): Liverpool (Schoolboy), Blackpool, Hartlepool & Colchester United (all three loan from Rovers)
Neil Danns, a former Blackburn Rovers trainee having come thorough the Rovers academy couldn't quite make the grade... but he is now starting his quest to prove Rovers wrong.
Having initially been part of his hometown clubs set-up as a schoolboy with Liverpool it was with Rovers that his big break came, joining them as a trainee working his way through the academy ranks to the senior side.
Whilst part of the youth side Danns was a part of the successful 2000-2001 FA Youth Cup side that eventually finished the tournament as runners up to Arsenal, with Danns proving to be the most successful graduate of that Rovers side.
August 2002 saw Danns sign his first professional contract with Rovers, making his senior debut a month later on 19th September 2002 in Rovers' 1-1 draw with CSKA Sofia at Ewood Park in the UEFA Cup. His Premiership debut followed three days later, again at Ewood Park with Leeds United the visitors. Danns went on to make the reminder of all but one of his seven first team appearances during the 2002-2003 season before loan spells with Blackpool, Hartlepool and Colchester United saw him seek first team football elsewhere.
The 2003-2004 season started with a three-month spell with Blackpool. Upon his return to Ewood Park in November 2003 Danns went on to make one more appearances in the blue and white of Rovers in the senior side. His seventh and final appearance for Rovers came on 10th January 2004 in Rovers' 4-3 defeat at the hands of local rivals Bolton Wanderers at Ewood; in fact all but one of his appearances indeed came at Ewood. The only away match in which he featured came at Villa Park in a 4-1 victory over Aston Villa in January 2003.
A two-month loan spell at the end of the 2003-2004 season took him to Hartlepool United before a similar spell with Colchester United during the early months of the 2004-2005 season. With Danns impressing during his two-months at Layer Road he briefly returned to Rovers before making the permanent switch to Colchester at the end of December 2004 for an undisclosed fee, known to be nominal.
His time with Colchester proved to be very successful, with him instrumental in the clubs promotion from League One to the Championship at the end of the 2005-2006 season. Danns form was in fact so impressive that he was linked with several clubs during the summer of 2006. Birmingham City were the club to win the race for his signature, with him signing for the club just relegated from the Premiership for £500,000 in June 2006.
In a bizarre twist of fate his Birmingham debut came against none other than Colchester! Danns has frequently featured for Birmingham during the 2006-2007 season in the Championship, helping them in their quest for an instant Premiership return.
It may be too early to really regard him as one that got away, but early signs during his time at Rovers and his form subsequently mean this could be possible. With Birmingham being a big club, should they regain their Premiership status this is when his real test will come, and we can fully see if Mark Hughes (having not long been with Rovers when deciding to let Danns go) was wrong in letting him go and he really will be one that got away…
The above information is as accurate to my knowledge as possible, up to and including 13th October 2006.
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