Ronnie Simpson

Ronnie Simpson

Ronald (Ronnie) Simpson was born in Glasgow on 11th October 1930. A talented young goalkeeper Simpson first played for Queens Park at 14 years and 304 days old. He also played for Third Lanark before being transferred to Newcastle United for £8,750 in February 1951.

Simpson made his debut against Bolton Wanderers on 29th August 1951. He eventually replaced Jack Fairbrother as the first-team goalkeeper. He joined a team that included Bobby Cowell, Joe Harvey, Frank Brennan, Jack Fairbrother, Bobby Corbett, Charlie Crowe, Tommy Walker, Alf McMichael, George Hannah, Jackie Milburn, George Robledo and Bobby Mitchell.

Newcastle United finished in 8th place in the 1951-52 season with Simpson playing in 39 out of the 42 league games. Newcastle also had another good FA Cup run that season, beating Aston Villa (4-2), Tottenham Hotspur (3-0), Swansea City (1-0), Portsmouth (4-2), Blackburn Rovers (2-1) to reach the final against Arsenal. The London club had finished 3rd in the First Division championship and were the post-match favourites.

In the 19th minute Wally Barnes was injured in a tackle with Jackie Milburn. He tried to carry on but he was forced to leave the field in the 35 minute. Arsenal's ten men fought magnificently against the marauding Newcastle forwards. They held out until the 85th minute when George Robledo headed in a Milburn cross. Newcastle had become the first team to retain the FA Cup since Blackburn Rovers in 1891. Simpson had won his first cup winners' medal.

In June 1953, Stan Seymour, the manager of Newcastle United, paid £22,250 for Jimmy Scoular. Appointed captain, he was a great success at Newcastle. Scoular joined a talented team that included Jackie Milburn, Bobby Cowell, Frank Brennan, Alf McMichael, Tommy Walker, Bob Stokoe, Bobby Mitchell, George Hannah, Vic Keeble and Len White.

Simpson was a key member of this team. As Paul Joannou points out in The Black 'n' White Alphabet: "Not a tall or physically imposing goalkeeper, Simpson though possessed cat-like agility with spectacular reflexes which made up for his small stature and was automatic choice for seven campaigns."

Newcastle United had another good FA Cup run in the 1954-55 season, Plymouth Argyle (1-0), Brentford (3-2), Nottingham Forest (2-1), Huddersfield Town (2-0), York City (2-0) to reach the final against Manchester City. Newcastle's star player, Jackie Milburn, later recalled how the game started: "I won a corner on the right and Len White ran over to take it. Manchester City's captain, Roy Paul, was standing next to me as Len placed the ball, but he suddenly yelled, 'Bloody hell, I should be marking Keeble,' so off he darted to find big Vic, who was more widely noted for his prowess in the air. Len fired the ball in my direction and there was I standing all alone like Grey's Monument. I headed the ball past their keeper, Bert Trautmann and that was it."

The situation got worse for City when Jimmy Meadows suffered a serious knee injury in the 18th minute. Just as in 1952 Newcastle had just ten men to beat. Despite this disadvantage City equalized when Bobby Johnstone beat Ronnie Simpson with a diving header after good work from Joe Hayes.

In the second-half Newcastle United made their numerical advantage count. According to Jackie Milburn, the Newcastle captain, Jimmy Scoular, was the best player on the pitch: "Scoular kept spraying great crossfield balls to Bobby Mitchell and between them they tore City apart." Charlie Buchan later commented: "I have never previously seen a wing-half display as good as that of Scoular's in any big game."

In the 53rd minute Bobby Mitchell made a run down the wing before scoring from an acute angle. Soon afterwards George Hannah scored from a pass from Mitchell. Newcastle United had won the FA Cup for the third time in five years and Simpson had won his second cup winners medal.

Simpson suffered a serious muscle injury that kept him out of the side for the whole of the 1958-59 season. He played in only three games the following season and in October 1960 he was sold to Glasgow Celtic for £3,000. Simpson gradually recovered his earlier good form and became the club's regular goalkeeper.

On 15th April 1967, Simpson won his first international cap for Scotland against England. At the age of 36 years 196 days he was Scotland's oldest ever international debutant. Scotland won the game 3-2. He also played against the Soviet Union (0-2), Northern Ireland (0-1), England (1-1) and Austria (2-1).

In the 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1969 Simpson won championship medals in the Scottish League. He was also a member of the team that won the European Cup in 1967.

Ronnie Simpson, who briefly managed Hamilton Academical (1971-72) died of a heart-attack on 19 April 2004.