Sunday, 27 March 2011
316 Paul Simpson
Position : Winger ( also played in midfield )
Played : 2001-02 to 2002-03
Appearances : 42
Goals : 15
John Hollins's last signing was a big one , bringing in Paul from Blackpool in March 2002. He had already had a big impact on our recent fortunes, masterminding the crucial defeat a year earlier that meant Blackpool pipped us to the play-offs and then humiliating Matt Gilks by repeatedly lobbing him in the FA Cup tie just before Hollins was appointed.
Paul had made his debut for Manchester City almost twenty years earlier but was loaned out to Finn Harps in Ireland before he became a regular in their Second Division side. He was regarded as a top prospect and won England under-21 caps but his star seemed to fall a bit when City were relegated again in 1987. After 121 appearances and 18 goals he moved to Oxford in March 1988 for £200,000. Paul spent four years there scoring 43 goals in 144 appearances before a £500,000 move to Derby in 1992, finally returning to the top flight at the age of 30 in 1996. However he only played 19 games in the Premiership going on loan first to Sheffield United then to Wolves who signed him permanently for £75,000 in 1997.He had scored 48 goals in 186 appearances for County. Paul spent three years at Wolves scoring 6 goals in 52 appearances but featured less as time wore on and had a loan spell at Walsall before moving to Blackpool on a free in summer 2000. They won promotion through the play-offs the following year.
Paul almost did the same for us. He announced his presence with a spectacular long range goal on his debut at home to Plymouth and scored a total of 6 in 9 appearances plus another in the first leg of the tie against Rushden. Not surprisingly he wasn't that fast anymore but the skill was still there and his composure when presented with a chance was awesome - as my mate put it simply - "he doesn't miss".
However talent comes at a price and when we didn't get through the tie against Rushden we had an expensive player for another year in the Third Division. Whether the Board had decided to appoint Paul as player-manager before the notorious fax terminating Hollins's tenure isn't known but it was the start of a couple of years where our fortunes precipitously dipped and the Board didn't cover themselves with glory.
We'll cover Paul's managerial fortunes in subsequent posts but they did have an effect on his game as a player. He started well enough with a dead-ball hat trick (two pens and a free kick helped on its way by Andy Dibble) at Wrexham in August 2002, a game at which I received some stick for wearing pink shorts (one of my turns, I guess). However he decided to start playing himself in the middle which he didn't have the legs for anymore and our form suffered as a result. The pressure even made him forget the rules of the game on one occasion when he put away the rebound after his penalty had hit the post. Being boss also made him greedy; in the game at Boston in October he kept trying to score from inside his own half to the frustration of team-mates and supporters alike.
Paul's days as manager were numbered long before the final game at Macclesfield after which the Board gave him an option of staying on if he accepted an experienced number two in place of Jamie Hoyland. It would be interesting to know who they had in mind but Paul refused and left the club; strangely he has not made Hoyland's a prerequisite of his subsequent appointments.
Despite our lowly finish Paul got appointed player-manager of Carlisle where he didn't endear himself to anyone with his childish baiting of the crowd after scoring against us at their place in September 2003. His first season ended with relegation to the Conference but he then achieved back to back promotions playing his final League game at 39 in May 2006. This got him appointed at Preston but things soon turned sour there and his subsequent appointments at Shrewsbury and Stockport have also ended in dismissal.