Danny Simpson

Danny Simpson: Leicester City’s Reliable Right-Back

Over the decades to come, when Leicester City’s stunning Premier League title success of 2016 truly enters English football folklore – and the most recognisable starting XI of that season is etched onto museum walls – one man’s name is certain to be included.
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After signing at King Power Stadium in August 2014, Salford-born Danny Simpson had already been at the Football Club for a full season before that glorious day in May 2016, when City lifted the trophy between spells of sun-drenched early summer bliss and torrential rainfall.

He had joined under Nigel Pearson as the Club prepared for their maiden season back in the Premier League after a decade away, but he featured sparingly for the Foxes that term.

The assured right-back arrived with an impressive pedigree as a Manchester United academy graduate who had won promotion with Sunderland, Newcastle United and Queens Park Rangers.

He ended 2014/15 having made 14 league appearances during a campaign which became renowned for possibly the greatest ‘Great Escape’ from relegation in recent memory.

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Danny Simpson
Danny Simpson

Simpson was promoted with QPR the same season as Leicester climbed into the Premier League.

He also began the following season behind Ritchie de Laet in Claudio Ranieri’s preference at right-back. In fact Simpson didn’t make his first Premier League start of the campaign for City until Saturday 3 October, when the Foxes dug deep to secure a 2-1 win at Norwich City.

“Even in that season I didn’t play the first maybe five games,” he reflected shortly after the breathtaking achievement eight months after that Carrow Road outing.

“There was a point where maybe I was going to leave but I was tired of moving clubs and I thought I would give it until January under the new manager.

“I remember I was in training and Steve Walsh (former Head of Recruitment and Assistant Manager) came in and said ‘the manager wants you’.

“He told me that although I hadn’t been involved in the first month, he liked my attitude in training and, if I kept it up, I’d get my opportunity. I was on the bench against Arsenal for the 5-2 game and the next week we had Norwich away and I was in the team.”

People may not have realised it at the time but the back-four that day – comprised of Simpson, Wes Morgan, Robert Huth and Christian Fuchs – was about to become an almost impenetrable wall of strength which would act as a springboard to propel Leicester to glory.

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Danny Simpson
Danny Simpson

Simpson arrived at King Power Stadium to initially provide competition for Ritchie De Laet.

Simpson was perfect for Ranieri’s tactical stratagem. He was defensively pragmatic enough to allow Riyad Mahrez’s sparkling ability to shine bright in front of him on the right flank. The Algerian needed Simpson there to allow him do what he did best.

There was little defensive pressure on Mahrez because Simpson was so good – he didn’t really have to. From that day at Norwich onwards, there was no debate. Simpson was City’s first-choice right-back.

De Laet headed to Middlesbrough on loan, where he would later win promotion. Simpson, meanwhile, became one of the most in-form defenders certainly in England, possibly even in Europe.

“I don’t know if ‘misfits’ is the right word, but it was a group of players that had come together from different situations, from lower league to free transfers,” he said in 2016.

“When you get on a run like that, you get that feeling that when you go onto the pitch, no matter what, you’re not going to lose – you’re going to at least draw.

“Once you’ve got that feeling in the camp, even if you have an off-game, you still think you’re going to win and that’s invaluable. That was a key part and also, every single player played the best they’ve ever played altogether at the same time.”

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Danny Simpson
Danny Simpson

With pizza as the reward, clean sheets became common place in 201/16.

Even though they were winning, Leicester’s main problem in those formative weeks of the 2015/16 season was keeping clean sheets. Ranieri tried everything, from mixing up his backline to promising his players pizza.

Simpson made 30 league appearances from that point onwards. Fourteen of them resulted in shutouts. In some respects, he’s a no-frills defender. ‘Get the basics right’ could easily be his mantra.

He keeps the ball out of the net and gives it to his more attack-minded colleagues up front.

Simpson was among four former Manchester United players at City who had watched on as youngsters as the Old Trafford giants continued to rewrite English football in the noughties.

Reaching the pinnacle of the game must’ve felt so close, yet so far away. It’s true to say that – at the time – Leicester’s unlikely title charge felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was now or never for the Foxes.

Like so many of his colleagues, as the number of journalists in attendance at King Power Stadium grew and each game got bigger and bigger, the pressure increased to levels which the Club had never encountered before in 132 years of history.

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Danny Simpson
Danny Simpson

At the heart of the celebrations of one of Leicester City's most famous ever goals.

Many thought that Leicester would buckle under the intense scrutiny. With a seemingly unstoppable Tottenham Hotspur on their trail, it was only a matter of time.

As the season hurtled into its final act, rather than wilt in the searing spotlight placed on them, the Foxes’ defence delivered their best form to date, keeping six clean sheets in 10 matches.

During that run-in, Simpson played every game. As the moment arrived to lift a prize few thought would ever grace the Club’s trophy cabinet, there was nobody more deserving to do so than Simpson himself.

He would go on to make six appearances in the UEFA Champions League the following season as City reached the quarter-finals stage – further than any other English side in 2016/17.

A 100th appearance for Leicester City, meanwhile, came in 2017/18, and during this season, Simpson has helped the Foxes to memorable away wins at Chelsea and Everton.

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Danny Simpson
Danny Simpson

Simpson's role in City's Premier League title-winning season will never be forgotten.

He came off the bench at Cardiff City in November, Leicester’s first match following the tragic passing of the Club’s beloved Chairman, Khun Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, just seven days earlier.

Simpson was only on the pitch for 20 minutes – and he had not appeared for the first team in over two months.

But when Leicester City needed him to be, he was completely flawless.

Every tackle which needed to be made was executed with precision. He helped settle down the younger players in the side as a global TV audience watched and willed the Foxes to victory.

Leicester had to be brave in a manner which would surely have made Khun Vichai immensely proud as they sealed an emotional 1-0 success in the Welsh capital – another Danny Simpson clean sheet.

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Danny Simpson
Danny Simpson

A heroic run to the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Finals included several assured displays from Simpson.

Over his five years at the Football Club, Simpson has also been a reliable figure for Leicester City’s projects in the community, regularly volunteering to assist wherever he can.

He assisted with projects such as Show Racism The Red Card and Premier League Primary Stars, taking pride in his opportunity to spread positive messages to the next generation.

Danny’s warm and conscientious demeanour meant that he was also often spotted at the training ground passing on valuable advice to the Club's younger players.

He was a sounding board who made himself available to provide guidance or to listen to their concerns. He hasn’t forgotten how fragile a player’s career can feel at that stage of their development.

Simpson became like a brother to many of them and it was a role which he took great pride in. He grew at Leicester, both as a footballer and as a man.

If you need any evidence of what the Club means to Simpson, watch Jamie Vardy’s record-breaking strike against Manchester United in November 2015.

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A faultless display in Cardiff
A faultless display in Cardiff

Simpson came off the bench during a 1-0 win at Cardiff City in November 2018 to help the Foxes seal an emotional victory just seven days after the passing of the Club's beloved Chairman, Khun Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

It was a personal achievement for Vardy, but it was also part of a broader fairy tale which was enveloping the city of Leicester.

The footage of the celebrations are particularly striking. Everyone rushes to Vardy and climbs atop of City’s No.9 – Simpson included.

As the world watched on in astonishment, there’s Simpson, taking it all in, roaring into the heavens.

It summed up perfectly what that season was about. It was Danny in a nutshell. A friendly, talkative presence in the changing room who made people laugh and enjoy their football.

It wasn’t about individuals. It was about the team. The greatest team in Leicester City’s history – and Simpson’s role within it will be remembered forever.

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