Bristol news Simpson wants to help produce 'edge-of-the-seat' football at Bristol City MetiNews.Com
MetiNews.Com - The Robins new head coach discusses his first six weeks in the job ahead of the Carabao Cup tie against Northampton Town
Breaking News ! It may not sound particularly romantic in a football sense, but a conversation that was to form the bedrock of how Bristol City will play in the 2020/21 Championship season, and hopefully beyond, took place on a summer’s day in Paul Simpson’s back garden. Having been contacted by Dean Holden over the prospect of joining his coaching staff at Ashton Gate for what was to be a new era for the club after four-and-a-half years under Lee Johnson, Simpson and Holden convened in Derbyshire for a chat. The conversation proved two fundamental things: one, the two could work together and two – which is probably linked to the first – they shared core ideas over what constitutes a good and successful football team. Read More Related Articles Bristol City's expected team to face Northampton Town with Mawson, Bakinson and Sessegnon to start As a cultured and clever midfielder for Manchester City, Oxford United and Derby County, true to his playing style, Simpson favours technical players but also wants to bring a tenacity off the ball. Not long after that meeting, Simpson was confirmed, along with Keith Downing, as City assistant head coach, his experience and coaching credentials helping alleviate some of the hysteria around Holden’s appointment in early August. Read More Related Articles Midfield mates, mature Massengo and Holden's charm – Moments missed from Bristol City's opening day win Simpson left behind four years of work with the FA as England Under-20 head coach; an institution that looked after its own and, in theory, could well have guaranteed him a job for life, across various departments and strands of the organisation. But the prospect of a project at City, under an exciting coach like Holden and the lure of the day-to-day work which, for a pure on-the-grass type coach of Simpson’s kind, was simply too hard to resist. Ahead of City’s Carabao Cup tie with Northampton Town, Simpson discussed his first six weeks in the job in BS3, moving to Bristol, the dynamic with Holden, his philosophy and his influences in the game … Sign up for our City newsletter All the latest news, views, interviews, gossip and analysis concerning Bristol City, delivered straight to your inbox, every day at 12:00. It's completely free and you can sign up HERE Can you sum the last six weeks in the job and your first impressions of the football club? I’ve got to start by saying I have thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s been fantastic so far. I’m loving being in the day-to-day stuff. I’ve had four wonderful years working with the FA, when you’re looking after players and you’re on camp for maybe 54-56 days a year. To be back involved in the day-to-day madness is what I wanted really. I’ve been impressed with the football club, I’ve been impressed with the area. There have only been a few people who have recognised me and they’ve been very positive, which is a good start! The players have impressed me with the way they’ve gone about their business, so hopefully it can continue the way it’s been over the last six weeks and maybe even get better. Have you moved to the area? I have. I’ve got myself a little apartment and my wife, who’s a teacher in Derbyshire, she’s going to come down most weekends, or I’m going to go back up, depending on fixtures. I do think it’s important to be in the area. I wouldn’t want to be commuting two-and-a-half hours every day, I want to be here and throw myself into the job because I want to be successful. Can you outline the dynamic between you and Dean and Keith? Dean have touched on it before when he said Keith maybe focuses on more the defensive structure and you’re the attacking coach. On a technical level how are those responsibilities spread out? I think between us, we’re really fortunate here. We’ve got a group of staff with Dean leading it: Myself and Keith (Downing), Pat (Mountain) looks after keepers and Kalifa Cisse, who takes a bit of a backseat but he’s a really important member of the group as well. Between the five of us we’ve got a real range of experiences in working in football. Dean, at the head, he makes the decision about how we want to play - the style of football and the way we’re going to go about it, any little slight tweaks in regards to an opposition game plan. But we generally try to focus on our way, we want to set our own way in stone and play that way with maybe a few little tweaks, depending on the opposition. (from left to right) Keith Downing, Dean Holden and Paul Simpson Then it’s up to myself and Keith, with Dean, to set up the training plan and how we’re going to prepare the players. And although we probably set off in a way that it was going to be Keith on defending and me on attacking - but, not so much that; more Keith focusing on the out of possession and me in possession – we tend to just mix it really. There might be a session where we’re working on our defensive shape, and I might say, ‘I’ll to that bit, in terms of the out-of-ball shape’ and we just tend to share the load, really. Then it comes to the matchday mindset and that’s when Dean, as the head coach, he takes over and that’s his stage to be able to put his ideas into the game. In terms of personalities and how you blend together, how are you getting on as human beings? It’s working really well, I have to say. We have some really good discussions, Dean’s quite open to the challenge, he’s not somebody who will say, “no, this is my way”. He’s got a real empathy about him, with his personality, and he’s prepared to listen and to be changed if it’s not right. I use the term manager, and although his title is head coach, he is the manager of the team. And when you’re learning how to be a manager, you have to find your way and Dean’s finding his way. Follow Bristol City Live on social media Keep up to all the latest from Ashton Gate via our Facebook page dedicated to the Robins You can also follow us on Twitter at @bristolcitylive Our Robins reporter Gregor MacGregor will also keep you up-to-date with all the goings-on at BS3 @GeeMacGee Myself and Keith are there to try and help him and guide him when he might get stressed about something that’s not worth getting stressed about. But overall I think he’s doing really well in the early stages of finding his own way and putting his own mark on the job. I know coaches don’t like to do this but are there any players who you’ve been particularly impressed with, in terms of their improvement? As a whole the club have done really well to get the group of players together that we’ve got, that’s the first thing I’ve got to say. I think we’ve got a really good mix of youth and experience in there. One player, from the weekend, who I’ve got to say really impressed me was Tyreeq (Bakinson).
. So he’s impressed me. But there are others. I went to watch the Under-23s up at Weston super-mare in pre-season and was really impressed with the way about it. There were some really talented players.
Tyreeq Bakinson in action for Bristol City against Coventry
Hopefully we can get them the right loan moves to get them developed, bring them back at the right time and blood them into the first team at the right time – like Antoine Semenyo - and have some good players to come through in the years to come. How much did you know about Bristol City before you took the job? Obviously you knew about the club, but in terms of the micro specifics about players and talents? Well, I knew about Antoine Semenyo because I watched him come on as a sub in an FA Cup tie for Newport County. But I’ll be totally honest with you, it wasn’t a football club I knew a lot about in terms of individual players. But it doesn’t take long.
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I remember the first day coming in and I asked Dave in the media team to get a sheet with little pen pictures so I could have them on my noticeboard, so I could pick up the names quickly. It was like going to a new school. But within 2-3 days I knew all the players and then all the staff names. And I think there’s probably only about 20 that I don’t know now [chuckles]! I’m looking at it now, six weeks down the line and we’ve got a really good group of players and excited about working with them over what will hopefully be a long period of time.
England's coach Paul Simpson (l) celebrates with his players after winning the 2017 Under-20 World Cup final against Venezuela in Suwon, Korea
To ask a potentially sensitive question, have you made up with Taylor Moore [Simpson dropped Moore from the England Under-20 squad on the eve of the 2017 World Cup which England went on to win]? I hadn’t fallen out with him [chuckles]! From day one, we’ve got on really well. I left him out but at the end of the World Cup he was one of the first people to send me a text message to congratulate me and I think that took a lot of balls, to be fair to him. From day one, his attitude to training and games has been absolutely first class. He’s really got stuck into it and fully deserves to be playing.
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You mention how Dean sets the tone in how the team wants to play but do you have an ethos and approach to the game – what do you like to see from a football team? We had spoken during lockdown. When it was first becoming apparent that the Championship was going to start again, I had a conversation with Dean to talk about how we would prepare for an international camp, where games are coming thick and fast. It was something he wanted to get an idea for in terms of the structure of their training programme, and it became quite clear to me then, his ideas on how to play the game were very similar to mine. Then when he said (for me) to come in, we sat down together for the first time in my back garden and chatted through it and we were really similar. Dean’s view is very similar to mine: when we’re out of possession, I want to be really hard to play against.
Paul Simpson in action for Manchester City in 1985
I want us to win the ball back as quickly as we can, rather than dropping into a mid or a low block and let the opposition have it and building some momentum. I want to win the ball back early but make ourselves really compact and hard to play against. And in possession, I want us to play football. I certainly don’t want to be known as a team who just launch it forward and scrap for things. I want to be able to build through the thirds, ideally build from the back without taking ridiculous chances and giving things away.
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I want our footballers to be comfortable on the ball, strikers who have a desire to score, and I think that’s what supporters want to see as well. At the moment it’s really frustrating that we’re not able to have our supporters in the ground and I’m really looking forward to the day when this stadium is full and we’re producing football that gets them on the edge of their seat and gets them screaming and shouting and getting all the emotions out, watching some winning football.
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Who are the most influential coaches you worked under as a player? There are all sorts of people. The first manager I got a regular place in the side was Billy McNeill at Manchester City. An old, Scottish Celtic captain who was all about motivation. Then I went to Brian Horton at Oxford United and, again, he was a very good motivational coach who showed faith in me and made me feel a million dollars, and that’s something I want to bring to players – make them feel good so they can go out and play.
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The first time I ever really got coached was when I was at Derby County and Jim Smith was the manager and Steve McClaren the assistant. I look at that as probably the best combination in a management team that I’ve worked under with Jim doing all the wheeler-dealing and Steve, who was just an absolute top-class coach on the grass.
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They all had an influence on me and then when you get into management you have to learn on the job and sometimes you have to learn by making mistakes and I’ll hold my hands up and know that I made mistakes but I also did some good things. I’ve got to say working as Steve McClaren’s assistant (at Newcastle) was another education for me, just to see how other people managed and how I should be in the system. And hopefully Dean will benefit from that experience that I had working in those roles.
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