It is FA Cup weekend, so Danny Simpson is dreaming of glory. Stuart Rayner reports.
IT is a dream most English boys share but Danny Simpson is still to experience a Wembley FA Cup final first-hand, even as a fan.
As a youngster on the books of Manchester United, he was in the crowd for FA Cup finals in 2004 and 2005 and even went to Moscow for the 2008 Champions League final.
However, since English football’s spiritual home was rebuilt, he has not witnessed its most famous annual event.
To hear Simpson talk about the FA Cup is refreshing.
Modern Premier League managers would often rather take a third or fourth place – or even a 17th – over a bit of glory.
Simpson, though, is still in thrall to the romance of the Cup.
“I am English and I know what the FA Cup means,” he says as he contemplates this evening’s awkward-looking tie at Brighton and Hove Albion.
“I have watched it since I was a boy. It is still a buzz. We try and tell the foreign lads, but they might not know what the FA Cup means as much as us. We tell them.
“I went to the final where Man United lost on penalties . . . to Arsenal. I went to another one, where they beat Millwall. They were both at Cardiff.
“The FA Cup means a lot and I am looking forward to winning today and hopefully going a long way.
“It is a massive tournament. Every English lad as a kid growing up watches the final and you dream about going to Wembley and winning it.
“I am no different now. I have an opportunity.
“I am playing in a great team and we have to believe we can go there.”
With Manchester City already out, and one from Liverpool and Manchester United likely to have fallen by the wayside before their 5.15pm kick-off, Newcastle United have good cause to dream.
More importantly, they are in good form, sixth in the league.
Hold their position and it could be good enough to take them back into the Europa League, depending which captains make the extended walk to the royal box this season. Simpson would rather do it differently.
He added: “Everyone wants a medal, no matter who you are – especially in the FA Cup.
“It would be a massive achievement for the lads, the manager and the club. It would probably be a dream come true for the fans.
“The Cup is a one-off. You need a bit of luck as well and we think we can have a good run.”
Simpson has two senior medals, for winning the Championship with Sunderland and Newcastle.
His time at Old Trafford has taught him to be greedy.
He said: “When I went to the Champions League finals I saw them with the medals.
“You did not get one unless you were in the final 18, but it does make you want them.
“Just being around the players, they are hungry for medals, hungry to win. You do take that from them.”
Simpson is too young to have witnessed first-hand the effect winning the FA Cup had on his hometown club.
The right-back was three when Sir Alex Ferguson won his first English trophy as Manchester United beat a Crystal Palace team featuring Alan Pardew.
What he did learn on the Old Trafford terraces was that one trophy can often bring another.
He added: “That is something you get from the manager as well.
“He knows how important it is and the feeling of getting to the final, because he was within minutes of winning it as a manager (with West Ham United in 2006).
“He will pass on his experience of the tournament and we will take that on board.”
Without a major trophy since 1969, or an FA Cup since 1955, silverware would mean even more to Newcastle – the city as well as its football club. They thought they were in with a chance earlier this season, only to miss out in extra-time of a pulsating fourth round League Cup tie.
Simpson said: “We feel we were quite close to glory in the Carling Cup and we were disappointed to lose that game (to Blackburn Rovers).
“We want to have a good cup run. We have the players to do it and the momentum.
“It is going to be tough at Brighton but if we perform like we can we are looking forward to being in the hat for the next round and having a good run.”
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