EXCLUSIVE: Newcastle iron man Simpson on going on and on and on
Published 22:30 05/04/12 By Simon Bird
Danny Simpson is eloquently reeling off the reasons why he believes his Newcastle side have stormed up the league this season.
The list is thorough, and includes manager Alan Pardew, detailed tactical preparations, deadly strikers, new players settling in quickly and squad spirit which, he reveals, has no room for negativity.
There are few better people to ask about the amazing feats being performed on Tyneside than Simpson.
He is the club’s only ever-present this season, starting all 36 games.
Out of 3240 minutes of battle, he has missed just 63 - having been substituted three times.
“I am proud of that,” he says. “To be at a massive club and to have played week in week out in the league and cup gives me a lot of pride and confidence.
"It is an achievement so far, but I want to get to the end of the season and say I did it right through. I have to keep performing.”
Simpson has experienced personal lows, like being forced to close his Twitter account by online abuse he received after last month's loss to Arsenal.
He took a throw in high up the pitch in the fourth minute of injury time, the Gunners won the ball back and went on to grab the winner.
“I am off it at the moment," confirmed Simpson. "It was hurting and that was why I came off it. Especially the Arsenal game.
"You should have seen the dressing room - it was like we had lost a cup final. I was sick. Gutted. Then you get on the coach, you have a long journey back and you turn the phone on and you sit there reading all that stuff.
“We are only human at the end of the day. You just do your best.
"I read some of the stuff and thought, 'I have had enough.
"I have had some positives from it, and I enjoyed interacting with the fans but there was no point in putting myself through that. I was already down and that made it worst.
"I think I will have it again one day, but with seven big games to go I am staying away.”
There have also been highs, like leading the Premier League in goal-line clearances in the Premier League this season - including the one against Liverpool last Sunday that he raises an eyebrow and says hit him on the shoulder!
Simpson, speaking at the EA SPORTS FIFA Street Pro Player Challenge said: “It is now eight, er, including that one of my shoulder at the weekend!
"It is all down to a chat I had with [Toon keeper] Tim Krul early in the season. He told me if I got the chance, cover the back post and he would cover the near post.
"I have been in the right place at the right time. It is a nice thing for a defender to do. We don’t get to score much, so a goal-line clearance is the closest we come. It is best when there is only a goal in it.”
Simpson, with his effervescent enthusiasm, epitomises the spirit of Pardew’s Newcastle, where positivity and a drive to get the best out of their talent is winning through.
“At the start of the season, we knew some big players were going to leave like Jose Enrique and Joey Barton," added Simpson. "But we finished 12th last season and we all said that was the first target - to improve and beat that and get top 10. Anything else was a bonus.”
The 25-year-old former Manchester United starlet's upbeat assessment comes with one note of caution.
“We are not finished this season yet," he said, "but we can say that there are a few key ingredients that have come together to get us this far...
“The manager is so thorough and so tactical and his staff have been great.
"We have a defensive meeting, and we have a team meeting to talks tactics.
"He gives us all the information. They must watch loads of videos before games to give us the bite-size stuff that we need. We have a different game plan every week depending on who we play.
"We listen to him, believe in him, and trust him.”
Then Simpson mentions the Geordies' strikers.
Demba Ba has netted 16, and Papiss Cisse seven in just seven starts since since january arrival from Germany's Freiburg.
“It is great to know, as a defender, that if we do our job and stop the opposition scoring then if we do get a chance and it falls to them they’ll score," he said. "First it was Demba on a great run, now it is Papiss.
"Sometimes with striker you think, 'Oh, he might miss', but not with these two.
“Our new signing have settled quickly too, and that is crucial.
"Take Cisse. He has come in February and started scoring immediately. People say it can take months, even a season, to get used to this league, but our new signings have hit the ground running. They’ve been really good value for the club.
"It is a credit to the people behind the scenes, like the scouts.
“The spirit from our promotion season has continued, too. I can honestly say no one has any problems with anyone. There is never any negative vibes - even if someone wants to play but is on the bench.
"For instance, Hatem Ben Arfa has been frustrated this season, but he has took his time and has really kicked us on.”
Simpson and Newcastle are taking nothing for granted and have to complete the job.
He concluded: “I just hope we are in the Europa League.
"We can also look back at where the club was two three years ago and know that would be a massive achievement for everyone who has been involved, staff, players, the owners.
"We were at a low then and we can now finish on quite a high.”
Danny Simpson was taking part in the EA SPORTS FIFA Street Pro Player Challenge. Go to www.youtube.com/easportsfootball to watch football stars from around the country go head to head. FIFA Street is out now.