Raves / Union

Raves: Jay Simpson

Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Union

Editor’s note: In Philadelphia, we’re all familiar with rants about sports. So once a year, PSP’s writers take several days to just flat out rave about players. They may not be the best players, but they’re players we like. Here’s another one in our Raves series.

On Tuesday, I wrote a rave about Haris Medunjanin. He’s the real deal, and I’m proud to have written the piece.

When our preferred assignments for this series were first requested by PSP’s editor, my choice was Jay Simpson. Not “Jay Simpson, because he played to well in Seattle and shone against Kansas City last week.” No, this was more than a month ago. I wanted instead to write the story that goes, “I wonder what Jay Simpson’s life must be like, at yet another unexpected destination in the unpredictable life of a professional soccer player.”

(Editor’s note: Chris’s editor rejected his request and told him to go with his other choice, Medunjanin. The editor changed his mind after Sunday.) 

Jay is the hero this week, and every media outlet including this one has written their story about how the Englishman kept his nose down, worked hard every day, and was ready for his chance.

To me, that is the story of Jay Simpson.

The reason why I chose Simpson is because, despite this simple narrative, there are so many more things I wanted to know.

What I want to know

I wanted to know what it must have felt like to score the first hat trick at The Emirates. As a product of the Arsenal youth system, you know that honor goes to Simpson, right?

I wanted to know what it must have felt like to be on the cusp of regular first team Gunner minutes… only to be loaned out to Millwall.

(If you like Jason Kelce, the Sons of Ben, and the “No one likes us, no one likes us…” chant, you should familiarize yourself with Millwall. They wrote that tune. Well, they wrote the words. Rod Stewart wrote the tune.)

I wanted to know how he made lemonade out of lemons there, a place famous for hooliganism more than soccer and an FA Cup Final appearance in 2004 when Cristiano Ronaldo did this, and won league Player of the Year.

I wanted to know how, after returning to Arsenal, what it felt like to be so quickly loaned out again, to a West Brom side who were on their way to relegation.

I wanted to know how he made lemonade out of lemons again, leading his team in scoring for the campaign.

I wanted to know what it must have been like to find another team willing to put him in their starting line up, Hull City. Or maybe what it was like to be a teammate of there of Brad Guzan … (and maybe Jozy Altidore, the dates are unclear).

I wanted to know what it must have felt like to be loaned back to a place where he had performed so well, Millwall, to where he had been embraced by fans and earned his keep… only to fall out of the mix once again.

I wanted to know what the agonizing conversation must have been like to go back to after his loan Hull, find a place in the XI, and actually help the perennial losers to promotion… and then not be offered a contract for the Premier League season to follow.

I wanted to know what his “Eay, Pray, Love” journey to Thailand after that season must have been like, eschewing another round of being tossed like yesterday’s English laundry for a chance at a clean slate and a new adventure.

I wanted to know how much Jay Simpson must have missed his family while he was halfway around the world, so much so that it drove him back to England within a year to third division Leyton Orient.

(Orient were the toast of at least one corner of the American soccer media landscape during this time. Here are the countless Men in Blazers links to prove the point.)

I wanted to know how sweet it must have been to be back home and back in the rotation, and how sour the aftertaste must have been to find himself relegated again at season’s end.

I wanted to again how he made lemonade out of lemons, winning League Two’s Player of The Month twice and finishing fifth in the year-end Player of The Year Voting.

I really wanted to know what it must have felt like to be on that Orient side, fighting for promotion, all the while not getting paid, watching as the team were taken to court for back taxes, and wondering if his job would still be there tomorrow or the day after… or if the club itself would be even there.

I wanted to know why he felt compelled to help his less wealthy teammates out between paychecks.

I wanted to know how he ended up in Philadelphia, finding a $500,000 per year lifeline to his career, his family’s livelihood, and his professional legacy.

I wanted to know what it must have felt like to start again, to score on his home debut in front of the supporters, and to end up in the hospital for his efforts.

I wanted to know what it must have felt like, after everything he’d been through, to show up again to training, only to find another striker in his career’s best form… and then be left out of the 18 for months on end.

I wanted to know how he kept his focus.

I wanted to know Jay Simpson’s side of the story.

Summary

The truth is, I may never get a chance to ask.

It would be my pleasure, but I’m no reporter. I’m a volunteer who loves soccer, loves writing, and thinks Simpson’s is a story worth telling. I’m also not the kind of fan who believes players owe me anything. Let them eat dinner without interrupting, don’t take their picture in public, and certainly don’t ask them what it must have been like in Thailand without their kids.

It’s none of my business, but it interests me to no end.

In the end, maybe I don’t need to ask Jay Simpson any of these questions. His story is clear as day: given his commitment to finding a place, to taking his chances, and to being humble throughout every up and down, the answers should be pretty clear.

12 Comments

  1. Dude is silk. Is he World Class? No. CJ earned the right to play last season and congrats to him but it had nothing to do with a lack of production from the guy they brought in to be the starting striker…. could just as easily turned out “Union sign Jay Simpson who promptly scores 18 goals in his first MLS season.”
    .
    Most of the people who have given him grief need a medical marijuana license to temper the fever.
    .
    oh look its the 85 minute again in a dump and chase game lumping balls forward, lets throw another striker on the field…but Jay can’t score. He sucks.
    .
    I finally stopped engaging the nit wits.

  2. The way the team was so supportive of his goals last game tell me everything I need to know about Jay Simpson. Dude was brought here as a high paid player. Didn’t really get a fair shake in games to prove his worth, has been put down by fans and media and yet the dude clearly kept grinding for over a year. Much respect to the man.

  3. Peanut Gallery says:

    Appreciate your thoughts on this. Thank you. It’s easy to forget that professional atheletes are real people.
    .
    “I ain’t a-saying you treated me unkind
    You could have done better but I don’t mind
    You just kinda wasted my precious time
    But don’t think twice, it’s all right”
    .
    (Bob Dylan, ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right‘)

  4. Simpson and Alberg could have been an interesting combination if they had ever tried two strikers up top long enough let some chemistry develop – not the last 10 minutes in games they were already loosing.
    No complaints on how it has worked out now in 2018 for the team, but it does suck for Jay.
    Happy he got two goals against RSL- it could have easily been 3.

  5. Nice piece again Chris.
    .
    As being one of Jay’s biggest detractors, I admit he definitely has more to offer than I imagined. As A. says above the team’s reactions tell a lot, and made me even happier for him.
    .
    Jay may not suck, but the situation he found himself in did, and that was truly a shame. The front office deserves a good portion of the blame for this IMO.
    .
    I wish Jay well whatever happens to his career. Who knows he may still have a huge part to play in this season.

    • He is in Houston, in the gallery of pictures taken at practice there. He’s the only pure striker in reserve, given Sapong will start on the flank.
      .
      He may not dress as there are 20 in the various pictures and only 18 places. but he got to go.

  6. I think the people who gave Jay Simpson grief were being foolish. We never saw enough of the guy to even determine his worth to our squad.

    In fact, I gave a lot more grief to Jim Curtin for failing to give him that chance even when Sapong was struggling. Now, it seems his faith in Cory Burke was well-founded. But what’s Sapong done this season to justify playing while Simpson sits? And I’m a big fan of Sapong’s.

  7. Andrew Gajan says:

    Imagine this. The Philadelphia Union win the U.S. Open Cup and play in the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League starting in January. The team needs to juggle preseason, Champions League, and perhaps league play. Perhaps Jay Simpson may be around longer.

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