Bristol City have three right-backs currently and decisions to make in defence this summer. And Danny Simpson hopes to be on the right side of those and a part of the club moving forward.
The free-transfer pick-up who left Huddersfield Town last summer becoming injured just hours before the close of the transfer window, wrecking any chance of joining another club imminently on a short-term deal, has had to remain patient.
The pandemic has not helped Simpson return to football and find a new club, but despite nagging doubts over whether he can return to the game, the Premier League winner impressed Nigel Pearson enough to earn a deal through to the end of the season.
After a minor hamstring problem he is likely to play a part in the final game against Brentford this weekend as he bids to net a longer-term arrangement, with Pearson to also decide on the future of out-of-contract Jack Hunt.
Here’s a transcript of our chat with Simpson on living in the same block of flats as his ‘gaffer’ and much more.
How have you found life at Bristol City, Danny?
I’ve loved every second of it. It’s been nice to be here and get to know the boys and be back on the grass. And just being in the city to be honest. It’s been a long old season for me not playing, at times thinking should I carry on.
I know Nigel well and it was a great opportunity to come in and I said that I felt like I have a lot to offer at this club, the lads and with the manager himself. I’ve loved every second of it. Obviously results haven’t gone so well and it’s been a difficult time but let’s try and finish the last game on a high.
You said recently on the ITV football podcast that this has been one of your best achievements coming back to football after a tough year and injury. Do you still stand by that?
Yeah, 100 per cent. You go through as a young lad and a lot of obstacles get put in your way. When you’ve had such highs and played a lot of games and then you’re out of the game for so long through an injury that’s unexpected, and then a lot of people then questioning you saying ‘no, you’re not for us’ then you start doubting yourself.
But definitely, like I said, for me to come back it’s been one of the biggest achievements. I also said that it’s been the most enjoyable time of my career which you probably wouldn’t think that I’d say either.
How are you feeling currently? Are you injured or can you play this weekend?
I’m fit and available. I probably could have been [involved] last weekend but there’s no need to rush. And I’ve had another week training with the boys. I’m fit and available and ready for selection if the manager needs to play me.
You came in on a short-term deal. Have there been any talks on staying longer?
No not yet, but I’ve made it very clear that it’s something that I want to do. The new facilities, the manager… I know what he can do for this club and the young group of players.
I’ve seen him and been a part of something that he built. Sometimes you don’t want to talk about the past but I’ve seen him build a culture and a good environment and sets high standards and a family environment. And I can see that that’s what he can do here.
I know it’s been a difficult last couple of months to come in late but especially with a full pre-season and everything is set in stone to have a real, real push and build something special here. I’d love to be a part of that. But there’s nothing as of yet. There’s one more game to go and that’s the most important thing right now.
We were going to ask how highly do you rate Nigel? Did he have to sell the club to you to come in?
No. It’s like he knew. He said come in and see what the boys are like. I knew some of the lads anyway. It felt like first day back at school to be honest.
We’ve got some great young players coming through, we’ve got some great talent in the first team, and if you mix that as well with some senior players and like I said, it’s that mix that you want.
And you build a culture. I’d love to be a part of that with him and build some success. Because that is something that Is till feel is something that I want to achieve and I’d like to think it was here.
What about living in Bristol? Are you in that block of flats with Nigel Pearson too? Have you had to borrow something off him at all?
We’ve bumped into each other a few times nipping down to the Sainsbury’s. I remember once after a game it was after we’d not won and I was trying to keep my head down.
I’m staying there now – and a few other lads stay there before games. And I’m enjoying every second of it. I like the city and I hope I can play some part in the last game. And more importantly I hope I can be here for pre-season – and get fully fit. I’ve not had a pre-season for a couple of years now for me that would be great to help the team next season on and off the pitch.
On the team, it’s bad results currently. What do you see in the changing room? How is Nigel Pearson going to turn this around? Has he got players there that can do better?
I’ve spoken about this because I’ve got a lot of experiences. And I’ve been in dressing rooms where the results haven’t gone well and form’s not been great – one win in 12 – and you’re coming into a building every day and there’s a negative feeling and a bad feeling and a bad atmosphere. But that’s not the case.
Yes the results are hurting everybody but what we’re doing and what you see on the training pitch and with the players that we’ve got and the ability that we’ve got, and especially the young boys coming through, who are getting an opportunity by the way, it’s all positive from where I’m looking for next season.
I get it for the fans at the moment, the last couple of months have been a strange one. Especially for the manager trying to implement his ideas and get the boys fitter. But he’s explained to us and I know with a full pre season and more time to get over his ideas and everyone knowing their role and everyone being accountable, it’s been difficult to be able to do all that over the last six to eight weeks.
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We’ve got young boys coming through and with a full pre-season, whether I’m here or not, for the fans they should know that it’s all positivity for me.
Brentford come to town this weekend and they’re the top scorers in the division, how do Bristol City stop the Bees?
I’m a defender so what I believe is that we need to become a team who are hard to beat as an XI, including the ones who come off the bench. Who enjoy not conceding. I feel that some times we don’t celebrate that enough: keeping clean sheets.
We watched the games over the last couple of days and we’ve seen the best teams in the world hugging each other when they’re making blocks and tackles, if it’s Manchester City or whoever. And that’s what you’ve got to do in any division.
Against the Toneys and Brentford players who are very good, every single one of the boys, whoever is picked, needs to enjoy working hard and enjoy defending and enjoy keeping the ball out of the back of the net. We’ve got enough players who can score goals and win games.