Back in 2001, Canadian striker Dave Simpson signed with Stuttgart’s youth academy at a time when Canadian players signing with European teams was still a relatively new thing. Simpson didn’t end up signing for Stuttgart’s senior team but he did go on to sign for Belgian first division side Royal Antwerp. After stops in Belgium, Hungary, Czech Republic and Thailand, Simpson is now back in Canada closing his career out with Canadian Soccer League side Brantford Galaxy (where he’s found his old form and is currently third on the CSL’s top goalscorers list with seven goals). RedNation Online recently had the opportunity for a quick chat with Dave who reflected on his career to date.
RedNation Online (RNO): Thanks for the interview Dave. To kick things off, what is your opinion on Brantford Galaxy’s new-look squad this year?
Dave Simpson: It’s difficult to say because it is so new but it’s amazing that things are the way they are when you take everything into consideration. I’m definitely getting the itch to play again though.
RNO: You registered a cap for the Canadian national team in a 1-0 win over Martinique on January 30, 2008. What was it like finally making your debut for Canada?
Dave Simpson: Honestly, after a while I did not think it would happen. At that point I had been to a few camps in Florida under three different coaches (I went through Osieck, Yallop and Hart in a matter of years) so I was really happy it happened. It was always one of my goals. I just needed one (cap), even if it was against Martinique.
RNO: Do you think you could make a comeback to the national team?
Dave Simpson: I don’t think my mind is where it was before. I don’t think it is really about if I could as much as would. At every camp I would get a very good overview but then a coach would change. That’s when I was in Europe so I doubt it now. That’s just the way it is I guess. I have a business I run now. I love playing but I don’t have any plans on going overseas again. The owner of Brantford Galaxy might like that and I’m sure he can make it happen but I used to be really, really fit. I just don’t know. I’m a vegetarian now. I am just learning how to eat and play for my body. It’s different now – so many things to consider. Plus, above all, I won’t play on Saturdays because that is my Sabbath. But I don’t know how long that will be for. It’s getting pretty serious and big. I may have to step away. Family first. It was my dream though to play with my old buddies from the 1983 squad: Tiba, Josh Simpson, Hume...
RNO: How and when did you get interested in soccer?
Dave Simpson: I started young and innocent. Played in an Italian league at 3 ½ with 5-year-olds. Everything was fine until I turned ten and joined with North Scarborough where I was confronted with playing on Sabbath. I said no and they allowed me to play every other day. Originally it was a way for me to burn energy around the house. I was too young to play my age so I ended up playing with my brother.
RNO: What was it like going to Germany and playing with Stuttgart's youth academy. That's a pretty big deal for such a young player from Canada.
Dave Simpson: Playing with Stuttgart was tough. A lot of sacrifices. I remember a team called PSA went down to play games against clubs over there and things really went well. Stuttgart was our final game and the biggest. I played really well. For the second half, I played with Stuttgart’s team against my own team. The coach at half took the shirt off another player’s back and gave it to me. That was the first time I realized the business of football and how hard and serious it was.
RNO: Then you went to sign for Royal Antwerp. How did you decide on the move?
Dave Simpson: After the game, the coach asked me if I could play on the Sabbath and if I didn’t I would not be able to join the team. That’s the first time I decided to choose football over my beliefs. Hard as a kid to makes decisions that affect more than yourself. After Stuttgart I signed for the Belgian side. It was tough getting back into it because I had been let go (from Stuttgart) because of Alexander Hleb and Kevin Kurányi. Hleb had a brother who they also had hopes for so they chose those three. In youth football there is not enough space for everyone.
So I left for Royal Antwerp. Actually I came back home for a bit and went to Hungary where I signed for MTK Budapest’s first team. I had just signed the contract when three days later my manager said we have a game in Belgium. I had no idea what he was talking about. It seemed rushed. I didn’t really have time to get my things ready so we took off my car to Belgium. Next thing I know we’re shopping for shoes for a game. I ended up with these ugly plastic Umbro shoes but I played one of the best games of my life. They went into a room and signed a contract. I went to a hotel and never left (laughs). So I signed a five-year contract for Royal Antwerp but after a while there were money problems. The first three months were tough because I could not get my players’ rights from Canada for some reason. So I only played friendly matches which killed my chances when I was red-hot. Then they went through some financial issues that – at the time – I did not know how to handle. I wanted my salary right away. I waited three months then complained for my release. I should have just stayed. I lived in a very nice hotel and ate for free. The club had Man Utd players John O’Shea and some others. I should have (stayed).
RNO: How come you didn’t play anywhere in 2004?
Dave Simpson: My rights were with Hamilton Thunder. The owner held them for one year. It was terrible. This is where Canada is behind. It should have never happened. Same thing happened in 2009. It is hard. I stopped and started my career three times. I don’t think anyone has done that before.
RNO: Looking back on your career, you have some impressive experience. Especially for a Canadian player. Are you satisfied?
Dave Simpson: Yeah. My goals were simple: play in front of a lot of people, win something, score in every country I played in, entertain. I love the game but now it has merged with business. I am (satisfied) but I sometimes think back and wonder if I made better decisions and stuck it out on teams like Stuttgart and Antwerp what would have happened. They both had good plans for me if I would have waited. I just needed someone with experience to give me good advice. If, if, if.
RNO: Did you play in the UEFA Cup while you were with Sparta Prague?
Dave Simpson: Nope. Down on the game sheets to start, measured for the suits and put on loan before the game against Hearts in Scotland (laughs). Interesting. The coach of the Czech national team (Michal Bílek) was my coach in Sparta. Sort of funny to see him on TV. He is the one who moved me to SK Kladno to play on loan so watching the EURO this year was very interesting.
RNO: Did you play with RedNation Online’s Chris Williams?
Dave Simpson: Yes, while playing for Kladno. We had the same agent so when I went on loan I recommended him to the coach. Chris was good so it was a no-brainer.
RNO: Did you like life in Czech Republic?
Dave Simpson: Ask Chris Williams (laughs). I looooved it. That is my favorite country in Europe by far. The best country (outside of Europe) was Thailand.
RNO: Why Thailand?
Dave Simpson: My fiancée likes their food (laughs). No, I really wanted to travel to Asia before I stopped. I would never have had a chance to see it (Asia) if I played in Europe. Sooo many fans, good weather, nature, good money. Very good choice until I got injured.
RNO: While with Kladno, you suffered a serious injury with an elbow to the head from an opposing player. It seemed pretty bad.
Dave Simpson: That injury was terrible for a lot of reasons. I had just got my feet wet in the Gambrinus liga and started to make a real impact on the team. More importantly, it was a serious injury. The doctor said I stopped breathing for a while. Kept me out for three months till winter break.
RNO: It seems as if you didn't have much luck with those injuries. Which injury was it in Thailand?
Dave Simpson: Well I only had one injury in the Czech Republic and that was the head injury. I had a car crash as well but not so bad. In Thailand I tore my ligaments in my right ankle and because – well, because it’s Thailand (laughs) they did not treat it well. I actually played on it for three months (laughs) till I found out when I got back. I’m blessed though when it comes to injuries.
RNO: You also played for the Canadian youth teams. When did you know that this is something you will dedicate your whole life to?
Dave Simpson: I actually bumped into Ray Clark at the last Canada game vs. Honduras (I was sitting close to Jono de Guzman). He was my first coach. I didn’t think I was good enough till I went with the Ontario team and was picked out. When I went on my first trip, I realized that I can do this.