Meet the right-back, model, and soon-to-be fashion designer who is a key part of football’s greatest story
It’s a beautiful sunny day on a big red boat in London, and Leicester’s Premier League-winning right back Danny Simpson is modelling a range of warm chunky knitwear and winter duffle coats for the october issue of FS.
Leicester’s Premier League-winning right back. It’s worth repeating because it doesn’t seem any less amazing now than when they won the title in May. Odds of 5,000-1; Mahrez, Vardy, Drinkwater and co counter-attacking teams into the floor; Claudio Ranieri’s dilly ding dilly dong; it’s the greatest story the Premier League has ever produced.
Hat £145 Gucci at Flannels; Jumper £132 DKNY at Flannels; Shirt £110 Reiss; Jeans £180 Stone Island at Flannels; Socks £19.95 Scotch & Soda; Boots £245 Grenson at Flannels; Duffle bag £95 Carrier Company
Simpson’s career began at Manchester United, where he was part of a squad in its pomp; a squad that won the Premier League three times in a row between 2006 and 2009, and the Champions League to boot.
“I was lucky enough to be learning from Gary Neville who was all about how hard he worked,” Simpson explains. “He made every part of his game as good as it could be. When I was coming up, I was learning from him, and Rio, Vidic and Evra too. Scholes was the best player I’ve seen, then there was Giggsy and Ronaldo – so yeah, it was a good group to be around.”
His career with the club never really took off and he went out on loan, including a couple of stints at Royal Antwerp in Belgium where he shared a flat with other young loanees Jonny Evans, Fraizer Campbell and Darron Gibson. Newcastle bought him in 2010, before he was then moved onto Queens Park Rangers and Leicester. The idea of winning the Premier League must have seemed an increasingly distant dream.
“It’s tough to leave Man United for any young kid that’s come through the ranks,” says Simpson. “There aren’t many that think they’ll go on and win the league somewhere else. You just want to go on and have a good career, play as many games as you can, and try to play at the highest level. In terms of trophies, you’re hoping that one year, you might get a cup run and play at Wembley, but not actually win the Premier League.”
After Leicester only just escaped relegation the previous season under Nigel Pearson, new manager Claudio Ranieri refused to get sucked into talk of winning the title until it was virtually sewn up. After 18 games, they were top but in press conferences, the wily Italian was banging on about reaching 40 points. For the players, thoughts of “what if?” started kicking in a bit sooner.
“There were two stages,” says Simpson of his realisation that they might be in with a chance. “One was our Christmas phase, when we beat Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City. I thought, ‘We’re having a good go here against the top teams.’ When it really hit me that we could do it was the West Ham game at home in the final stages of the season, though. We were 1-0 up, Jamie Vardy got sent off and all of a sudden we were 2-1 down with five minutes to go. Everything looked like it was against us but with the team spirit and the way we are, we kept going, kept believing and drew 2-2 with a penalty in the last seconds, and it felt like a win.
“The team spirit is something I’ve not experienced before – we’re really close on and off the pitch. Everyone just wants to do the best for each other, and whether you’re playing or not playing, we’re all in it together.”
The exact moment they won the league went viral when Christian Fuchs posted a video on Twitter of them all dancing around Jamie Vardy’s kitchen, after Spurs drew with Chelsea. “I’ll remember that forever,” says Simpson. “Watching that Tottenham game together and the way it all unfolded, with Tottenham taking a 2-0 lead, then Chelsea bringing it back to 2-2. It was a special moment.”
Mac £99.95 Samsoe & Samsoe; Pullover £28 BooHooMan; Stripe T-shirt £49 Jigsaw
It wasn’t the first time Simpson had won a league, though. In 2009/10, he won the Championship with Newcastle, getting promoted back to the Premier League at the first attempt, with the likes of Joey Barton, Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll around him. But Newcastle were expected to win; anything less would have been a huge disappointment. With Leicester, on the other hand, there was no pressure because no one thought it could possibly happen.
“There was never any pressure whatsoever,” says Simpson. “And that came from the manager – it was always just focus on one game at a time. He just said that we can’t control what other teams do. Let them do what they do and we can only concentrate on how we’re going to get three points.”
That’s not to say anyone was given an easy time by Ranieri, who coined the phrase “dilly ding, dilly dong”. Not the harshest rebuke but everyone knew what it meant. “If someone in training isn’t on it, he’ll say ‘dilly ding dilly dong’ as a way of saying come on, get going,” says Simpson. “He’s saying it for a reason. The lads just took it on board and started saying
it to each other and so he started saying it more.”
As well as modelling the latest threads for FS magazine, Simpson has plans to design some of his own. He’s starting a fashion label with a business partner, although he says coming up with the right name has been one of the hardest parts so far.
“I’m getting samples back and deciding on things I never really thought I’d be talking about, like stitching, the size and quality of the zip, the lace, the thread, and the quality of the clothes,” says Simpson. “At the moment, it’s just men’s clothes but hopefully we’ll start to do women’s stuff as well. It’s classy casual wear that you can put on if you want to go for
a nice lunch in the afternoon and look smart.”
Simpson’s fashion dream may sound like a long shot but, like Leicester, don’t bet against it.
Stylist: Mira Kozlowska
Stylist Assistant: Tara McGovern
Grooming: Sian Duke using MAC cosmetics
Digital Operator: Alex Cornes
Photographer’s Assistant: Esther Wade
Art Director: Paul Frost