“He was different…..he was planning ahead. He wasn’t waiting for things to come to him and was very good around the players.”
Paul Simpson has received plenty of compliments since last week becoming the first man since Sir Alf Ramsey to lead an England side – any England side – to a World Cup triumph.
We let the dust settle on the wonderful achievements of he and his under-20 boys in South Korea, then decided to seek out a personal insight from a man who had known him as a player at Wolves in the late 1990s and then much later as a backroom colleague at Derby.
“He was not stereotypical as a player,” said Chris Evans. “Going back almost 20 years, I always thought he was destined to go into management if that’s what he wanted.
“I recall him doing a sports science degree relatively early – he wasn’t waiting for his playing career to end before he made some plans for his future.
“He didn’t hang around doing his coaching badges either and I remember him asking me when I was in charge of Wolves’ academy whether he might do some coaching work with our under-tens.
“We met again years later when we were both doing a management diploma course run by the League Managers Association. He has worked hard to broaden his knowledge and I know he also had a year or two working in Portugal at an academy when he was between jobs over here.”
Simpson has been in the public eye since the success of his young charges in the Far East, even flying to Poland to work as a summariser for BBC 5Live during England’s progress to the semi-finals of the Under-21 European Championships there.
And he will no doubt have learned much about international football from former England boss Steve McClaren.
“Simo came in with us at Derby not long after I had linked up there with Steve,” Evans added. “They knew each other as players at the club and Steve found him a loyal no 2 in a backroom team also containing Eric Steele, who had a spell at Wolves with Graham Turner.
“You don’t need energy sappers around a club. You need bright and bubbly individuals and Simo is very much in that category. He is a good organiser, very hard-working and methodical, although Steve did most of the coaching.
“He is one of those who is first in and last out and Steve thought enough of him to take him to Newcastle with him as well.
“I was delighted to see him have this success. Enough England coaches have attracted nothing but flak, so it was great to be able to send him my congratulations for a job superbly done.
“His personality is infectious and he clearly galvanised those lads under his control and found some magic dust. I am thrilled for him.”