When the Philadelphia Union announced that they had signed forward Jay Simpson from English fourth division side Leyton Orient, my first reaction was “Who?” I don’t follow the English game at all, and I only know of Leyton Orient’s existence from playing Football Manager. Jay Simpson might as well be Homer Simpson to me, so I asked some folks what they thought of him.
Thomas Wachtel, Managing Editor at The Short Fuse (SB Nation’s Arsenal blog), asked one of his friends about Simpson. The response was... less than encouraging. “He was never an interesting prospect to me from Arsenal's perspective. Wikipedia reminds me that he was the first ever player to score a hat trick at the Emirates... (Simpson was a) pacy-ish striker that was always pretty good in League One on loan, but everyone knew he wasn’t gonna make the grade at Arsenal so I didn’t pay too much attention to him.”
Woof. Then again, I get it. Think of a Greg Jordan or Don Anding - guys who made an appearance or two with the first team, but unless you were a reserves league devotee you didn’t see them play much and probably forgot about them. Simpson is probably that guy, but for Arsenal.
The part of him being a pacy striker that was ok at the lower level echoes the sentiments of other people I talked to about the move. One friend brought up a comparison to Bradley Wright-Phillips in that BWP played in the lower divisions in England before coming to the US and lighting it up with New York Red Bulls.
I also asked the staff here at Brotherly Game to give me their thoughts on Simpson, and here’s what they had to say:
Nick Youngstein: They signed a forward. Yay. We have no idea what system he fits with, and how Union will use him. Also, is he gonna be in shape when he comes over?
Evan Villella: If he can find his form he was on in League Two (one goal every 175 minutes) that would be cool. Worst case scenario he plays in Bethlehem and lights up USL.
John Rossi: I'm reserving full judgement until I see him play, but this definitely doesn't excite me. Hopefully they're not paying him very much.
Amit Mallik: As a big fan of bad English strikers, I feel meh. He has not produced at a high level, and wasn't good enough in the Championship. Confident strikers are always welcome, but I can't see him being a starting striker in the league. Maybe he will help spark production in CJ Sapong through squad competition.
Colin Campbell: My gut reaction is that this will be like Fernando Aristiguieta or Lionard Pajoy, a decent striker who had a season of good form elsewhere who will come to Philadelphia and score and underwhelming 6-7 goals in a season and be out by the end of the year. The only plus is that for when he's not doing too hot, he can go down to USL and crush Freddy Adu's team.
Doug Gobrecht: I'm wondering if his style fits the system they are playing. My initial thought is he needs an additional striker to pair with, but I'm limited in my analysis of him.
Matt Ralph: I'm not overly thrilled about giving up an international slot for him but I do hope he proves a lot of people wrong and ends up being a move we look back on with more appreciation than angst.
Jared Young: This is a speculative move at best and TAM can't be spent on players that may not find success. With Charlie Davies and CJ Sapong in the fold it appears this is the striker core, and I'm not sure the answer to what plagued the team last year is in that group.
Personally, I too have my reservations about a guy that’s bounced around the top four divisions in England and never really caught on anywhere, but in all fairness I still haven’t seen him beyond a couple of YouTube videos. Also, I too am interested to see how he fits with the team and how he’ll be utilized.
The main thing that keeps me from going full Negadelphia on this is that it’s an Earnie signing, and he has yet to make any truly bad ones (Anderson, while not a good signing, was a loan and has gone someplace else so that’s not bad). TAM and the last international slot is a lot to invest in a guy, but if it pays off and he bangs in 15-20 goals or creates 15-20 assists, then it’ll all be worth it.
So what are your feelings on this signing? Let us know in the comments section below (or on Facebook or twitter too).