I was able to get the attention of Edward Francis of Cartilage Free Captain - SB Nation’s Tottenham blog - and ask him about Jay Simpson. While Edward might write about Spurs, he’s also a Leyton Orient season ticket holder. Edward has been able to watch Simpson in person since he moved to the northeastern London club in the summer of 2014 from Thailand.
Edward Francis - Cartilage Free Captain: I have a Leyton Orient season ticket and caught the vast majority of his appearances for them. Key headline- if you can unlock the shit-hot player that scored nearly 20 goals for us last season before January then you'll be laughing.
Eugene Rupinski - Brotherly Game: So the refrain I hear about Simpson is that his best asset is his pace and that while he's got talent, no one has been able to get that out of him consistently. Is that fair?
EF: To an extent, yes. I would actually say that his best asset is his ability to create a yard of space for himself and finish. The point about nobody being able to consistently get the most of his talent is sort of true in that he never had a full good season for Orient - but that's also not been entirely his fault. Last season he scored an almost unreal amount of goals in a half-season where the (then) Orient manager Ian Hendon built a system to maximise his strengths - a 4-4-2 which paired him with a strong, mobile strike partner (Paul McCallum and Ollie Palmer shared this role). (Simpson) played alongside another striker that will draw defenders off of him and move around for the ball, he's freed up to focus on the thing he does best - hovering around the box waiting for his moment to snatch a goal.
He fell off very sharply in the second half of last season, and that was because Ian Hendon got sacked and we appointed Kevin Nolan (yes, of Bolton, Newcastle and West Ham fame!) as player-manager. Nolan reconfigured the system to a 4-4-1-1 in order to allow himself lots of game time at AM. This meant that Simpson had to lead the line alone, which is something he can't really handle, and consequently he started getting marked out of games mostly every week.
ER: This isn’t exactly filling me with hope. The Union play a 4-2-3-1, and I don't see him doing well against the big, physical center backs here.
EF: Don’t worry about the physicality of the centre backs - it's very much the same in League Two. He can handle it.
A couple of other things worth mentioning: I think Simpson's goal record at Orient should be way higher, but in his first season he was injured and then barely used on his return, and this season he's not run out for us much because our owner is a crazy person who keeps freezing out players he wants to sell so actually i'd probably look at his figures for 15/16 for the most 'pure' overview of what he can do and ignore the bookending seasons.
I'd probably also add that he's a top-notch professional. He's had to endure some absolutely batshit crazy stuff at Orient in the last three years - 9/10 managers in three seasons, the aforementioned freezing out, an incident where the owner barricaded the whole team in a hotel as punishment for a bad performance, and he's never once badmouthed the club to the press. He's an excellent club man.
ER: I've seen that he can be used as a right winger? Is he any good at that?
EF: Yeah he's played right wing for (Leyton Orient) a few times. He's ok at it, but it's not his best position - the vast majority of the goals I've seen have come from him receiving the ball in central areas and shooting, rather than dribbling with it. Basically, my final verdict would be that if your coach is willing to experiment with a 4-4-2, he could have a really good impact for you. Otherwise, he's likely to be a handy impact player.