Twickenham, athletics tracks and park pitches – Tyreece Simpson’s unusual journey to the Ipswich Town first team
- Credit: Archant
It’s been a whirlwind week for Tyreece Simpson, the 18-year-old striker making his league debut for Ipswich Town and signing his first professional deal. STUART WATSON found out about his unusual journey to this point.
Tyreece Simpson has just made his league debut for hometown club Ipswich. His journey to this point has been far from the traditional one though.
Born in Ipswich, he grew up in Gorleston in Norfolk. Rugby and athletics was were he excelled. Representing Great Yarmouth and District Athletics Club, he posted a personal best time of 11.2s in the 100m. Representing Langley School as a flying winger, he was part of a team that won a national competition at Twickenham. That was as recently as March 2018.
Premiership giants Leicester Tigers had been sufficiently impressed to offer him a professional deal as he approached his 17th birthday. Yet he turned it down...
"I'd been at Leicester Tigers for a couple of years and they offered me a contract," explains the teenager, who only turned 18 last month. "They said they hadn't done that for about 15 years for someone so young. I had to make the decision and my heart was always in football, so I chose football."
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It was a massive call, given Simpson wasn't exactly playing at a high level.
"I'd been playing Sunday League, nothing really serious, and for a youth team in Dereham called Lakeford Rangers," he says. "I don't know what you'd describe that as, better than Sunday League but not as high as academy level.
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"I enjoyed playing rugby, but not as much as when I was on the football pitch. So I thought 'stick to football'."
In 2017, his chance came. He explains: "My school got to the finals of the PlayStation Cup which were at Derby's stadium. I got scouted by Man City playing in that, then went on trial at other clubs like Southampton. There was a coach at Man City who used to work here, Mark Kennedy, who said 'look, you've got a real opportunity to get yourself down at Ipswich, I think they'll be interested'. So I came on trial here and got signed."
Simpson joined Ipswich late in the 2017/18 campaign. He impressed for the Under-18s, bullying his peers with his size, before moving up to the Under-23s. Now, with a whole host of senior strikers suspended or sidelined, the first team door has opened.
His senior debut was in the EFL Trophy against Tottenham last September. Last weekend he stepped off the bench to make his league debut in the 2-1 loss at Blackpool. On Monday, he signed a two-year contract. On Tuesday, he stepped off the bench again to make his home league debut as the Blues suffered a 1-0 loss to Fleetwood at Portman Road.
"It's been a crazy week," admits Simpson, who grew up a Manchester City fan. "I've got to be honest, I didn't think this would happen for me this year. Maybe next year. I thought I was just going to be 23s, train with the first team a couple of times, then 23s again. But I'm obviously delighted with the way things are going at this moment in time.
"It's a huge opportunity to show what I can do. I feel like I've battled well. From what I've read I've done decent performances. I've been told I've been decent, so yeah...
"Hopefully I can hit the ground running, keep going, strive for more. Hopefully I'll get more minutes. Hopefully there's a start in there for me."
Big, powerful, physical - those are the words you often hear Simpson described as. Would he concur?
"Strong, fast... yeah. Good left foot," he says, with a smile. "Rugby helped with the physical side of things, while athletics helped me with my speed. I used to do 100m, 200m and shot put. I can't quite remember my times, but I'm on Power of 10.
"It is hard because I'm up against grown men now, and I've only just turned 18, but you've got to rise to it.
"It's about hard work. Hard work got me here where I am today.
"I was in the gym the other day and Nors (James Norwood) came up to me and gave some advice on my body position. I'm learning all the time.
"I want to help the team where I can, whether that's scoring goals or be that player they need to keep possession."
With Town's League One promotion push hitting the buffers in recent weeks, Simpson - who could well feature against table-toppers Coventry at Portman Road tomorrow - added: "We're all confident. There's still belief. We can't change what's happened. We just have to focus on what's coming. It's about pulling through, sticking together and focussing on what's ahead."