- Alan Birchenall pays tribute to Danny Simpson and Shinji Okazaki, who depart the Club this summer
- The Birch described Simpson as ‘a brilliant’ character who would always have time for a chat
- Okazaki’s smile will be missed at Belvoir Drive, according to the Club Ambassador
Between them, the Foxes duo have notched up over 260 appearances for the Football Club and were both given fitting send-offs following City’s final fixture of the 2018/19 Premier League campaign.
Birch, who has been associated with Leicester City for nearly five decades, has seen thousands of players walk through the doors at Belvoir Drive, and says Simpson and Okazaki rank highly amongst them.
Simpson, who arrived at the Club in the summer of 2014 from Queens Park Rangers for an undisclosed fee, has, during his time in Leicester, earned praise for his consistent and natural defending, which Birch described as ‘a dying breed’.
“There are many legends that have passed through this football club over the years and legendary status comes easy to a lot of people,” said Birch. “I’m not saying some of them don’t deserve that, but for me in my time, I’ve seen some great players.
“What you can say about Danny is that Danny is still a great player. He’s what I call a dying breed, he’s a natural defender, but over the years probably a little bit of that has had to go out of the game.
Birch: They'll Always Be Legends
Alan Birchenall talks to LCFC TV about the impact that Danny Simpson and Shinji Okazaki have had on the Foxes...
“If called upon, he could get forward with the best of them, but basically, I think he was probably the rock in that time when we won the Premier League. He was solid, he backed up Riyad [Mahrez].
“He’s brilliant and he’d always have a chat to everyone. It’s ironic, really, that the couple of people that we’re talking about have been some of the most popular players at this football club in the last few years.”
Birch’s praise for Okazaki, meanwhile, was centred around the Japan legend’s unwavering efforts while donning a Leicester shirt.
“Shinji, that smile!” said Birch. “We’ll miss it terribly. You greet him and every day I’ve met Shinji, you get that lovely smile and boundless energy that he projected. Not just on the field, but off it, and that’s why the Blue Army took to him and loved him.
“I called him ‘lino’ at one time. He didn’t understand it, but lino is an old thing that my mother and grandmother used to put on the floor in the kitchen. It was called lino, it was a plastic sheeting. ‘Why lino, Birchy?’ I said ‘because you’re always lying on the floor, Shinji!’, just as a joke.
They will forever be in our history books. They’re Leicester City legends. How could you not be when you’re in the team or squad that wins the Premier League?Alan Birchenall LCFC TV
“His enthusiasm and who can forget his spectacular goal that he got that time? That overhead kick [against Newcastle]. It’s just memories that you get of people that come through this football club.
“I’ve got hundreds of them, but Shinji will stand out a character on and off the field – that beaming smile. Again, like Danny, I can accept that they’re footballers and they want to play. We’re going to miss them, we’re going to miss both of them.
“I’m going to miss that smile of Shinji every morning when I say hello. I don’t think in all the time he’s been here he’s quite worked me out yet! He just looks at me and thinks ‘that’s bonkers, Birch’.
“It was great to have him around the place and at the training ground here. He’s just a terrific character. There was one thing, they say about 100 per cent, but he was 110 per cent.”
On behalf of our football club, both him and Danny, we wish them well for the future because they’re part of a legendary story that we set up. They will always be legends at the ClubAlan Birchenall LCFC TV
While Birch and the rest of the Club’s staff and players will no doubt miss Simpson and Okazaki, the Club Ambassador said he cannot begrudge them for wanting to seek more game time.
“You need characters in football, on and off the field,” added Birch. “They’re both in their 30s now and trust me, I know it only comes too quick. You’re playing at 18, 19, 20 and don’t think about the future, you just want to play football.
“When you’re in your 20s, you’re still at the height of your career then that big 30 comes and you start thinking about things. They’ve still got lots of football in them. Trust me, you want to play and wring every last minute out of the game.
“They will forever be in our history books. They’re Leicester City legends. How could you not be when you’re in the team or squad that wins the Premier League?
“On behalf of our football club, both him and Danny, we wish them well for the future because they’re part of a legendary story that we set up. They will always be legends at the Club.”
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