Date: 10th October 2007 at 9:59am
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Local lad Danny Simpson impressed against Wigan Athletic on Saturday and could be ready to challenge Gary Neville.

Shall we be able to find a replacement for Gary Neville without spending millions? Simpson’s talent and attitude suggest it is possible, according to former youth coach Eric Harrison.

‘He is very similar to Gary Neville in attitude. He’s out of the same mould,’ he told the Manchester Evening News.

‘Gary wasn’t as naturally talented or technically gifted as his contemporaries like David Beckham and Paul Scholes. But he was my captain at 16 because he was made of the right stuff and knew what made a team tick. He made up for other things with his attitude.

‘He also worked tirelessly on his game. He grafted to become better technically and succeeded by hard work.

‘Danny Simpson is exactly the same. He was a decent player as a young kid but not technically the best. But Danny listens, learns and it sinks in with him. His improvement has been tremendous.

‘I don’t know whether the coaches at United had question marks over him but when you see a young player work hard, take things on board and progress like Danny has you tick his box.’


That’s all right, he’s a good lad with good attitude. But is he good enough to stake a claim for that right-back berth? I don’t know the answer…

‘If Gary can stay clear of injuries in future then I see him as a player who can play past his mid-30s,’ says Eric.

‘So it is going to be a big battle for Danny Simpson. But at least the manager knows now he has someone there who has the potential and character to challenge Gary.’


Playing past his mid-thirties after such an injury? I doubt it. It’s always harder to recover at Gary’s age so it’s vital we have replacements at hand.

Danny Simpson is undoubtedly quick, strong, the physical aspects of his game are excellent. Technically… that’s a different story. Last season he learned a lot at Sunderland to shape his often awkward style and during pre-season I noticed that his movement on and off the ball became a lot smoother.

He’s no Cristiano Ronaldo in that sense, of course. Gary Neville isn’t Ronaldo, either so it’s all right. As for Simpson’s attitude: the humiliation he had to endure as a left-back against Coventry was severe and though he had been switched to right-back at half-time, he did not regain his confidence and composure in that game. But his response to that night has been tremendous, we saw in the Wigan game that he stands up and wants to be counted.

Hopefully he’ll get more opportunities to show his capabilities and then everyone can decide whether he’s good enough to take over from Red Nev.