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The remarkable rise of England U20 manager Paul Simpson: from non-league boss to World Cup winner

England U20 World Cup
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It’s a measure of the impact that he had that Michael Bridges (who Simpson had brought to Brunton Park for the club’s first season back in the Football League) said he was one of the best coaches he had ever worked under. For a man who had played for the likes of Terry Venables at Leeds, that's quite some praise.

Simpson, though, was soon on his way, moving south to Deepdale and Preston – a club counted as a rival by Carlisle in the absence of any other real local antagonism.

“I think that left a bit of a sour taste in the mouths of some, but even they would have been jumping up and down when the under-20s won on Sunday,” says Colman.

England's U20 side celebrate their World Cup victory

Sharing in success

There were similar celebrations across the Atlantic in Toronto when Dominic Calvert-Lewin bagged the winner in the final against Venezuela.  “We all had it on the TV and were going crazy when England scored – it was cool to turn around and tell the kids that he used to be my gaffer,” says Terry Dunfield, the Canadian midfielder who played under Simpson at Shrewsbury following his appointment in March 2008.

Simpson’s reign at Deepdale had been cut short following a poor start to that same season, despite having taken the club to the cusp of the play-offs just a few short months before. He would suffer similar disappointment at Shrewsbury, even after leading the club to the League Two play-off final in his first season in charge.

“His training sessions were excellent and he was a really engaging kind of coach,” recalls Dunfield. “It’s no coincidence that quite a few of that side went on to play in the Premier League and Championship. He really trusted a core group of players in the squad and I think that made him ideally suited to doing what he’s now doing because he had a real eye for a player.”

Simpson one of Steve McClaren's assistant coaches at Derby

A spell at Stockport after he departed Shrewsbury left a bitter taste in the mouth, with broken promises and a dire financial situation not part of the vision sold to Simpson when he first accepted the Edgeley Park post.

Then when he left Northwich Victoria to take up a coaching post with the Vision Pro Sports Institute in Portugal, it seemed his days in management were done. This suspicion appeared to be backed up by his decision to accept coaching roles with Derby County and Newcastle rather than going back to the dugout as a number one further down the pyramid.

What looked like a temporary appointment with the U20 side back in March is now likely to be a far more permanent one. But the 2006 Cumbrian Man of the Year could still be receiving new job offers, after delivering what most English bosses since Ramsey have viewed as almost impossible.

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