News has reached us of the death of our former player Gary Simpson, at the age of 64. Stuart Basson provides the following tribute…
A native of Tupton, centre-forward Gary came through Chesterfield’s schoolboy ranks to become an apprentice in 1975. He accompanied Gary Pollard on Sheffield United youth team’s close-season tour of Holland in 1977 and signed his first professional contract at Chesterfield in July of that year. Behind the likes of Stuart Parker and Ricky Green in the pecking order at that time, Gary made his debut at Home Park, Plymouth in November 1977 and scored his maiden goal in his next game – a 2-1 win over Cambridge United at Saltergate on November 19, 1977.
Gary started 12 games in 1977/78 and scored three times, while top-scoring for the reserves. His next season saw less involvement: three goals came from ten starts as Ernie Moss returned to Saltergate and took the place that Gary might have thought to be his natural one. The 1979/80 season saw him play only once for the first team. Keith Walwyn attracted rave notices for his scoring in the reserves and, when Colin Tartt was handed the number nine shirt for the last nine games of the season, Gary might have thought that the writing was on the wall.
Gary stayed for one more season, earning a recall to the first team in December 1980. He found a niche in the fans’ hearts by scoring the winner against Sheffield United in an FA Cup second round replay just before Christmas, before adding eight more appearances and one goal to his record during the rest of the season. In all he, scored nine goals from 51 stop-start first-team appearances.
Gary left Chesterfield in search of more regular football, joining newly-promoted Chester for a fee of around £5,000 in August 1981. He finished as their top scorer in 1981/82 with 12 goals, two of which were scored against his old club in a 5-3 win for his new side. In all, he played 63 times for Chester in all competitions, scoring 18 goals before leaving in 1983, and is remembered fondly by their supporters.
Gary settled in North Wales and when the time came to move on from professional football he went to work for the Safeway supermarket chain and played for non-league clubs in the area, including Bangor City, Oswestry Town and Connah’s Quay Nomads. He joined Tesco in 1989 and was their night warehouse manager at Mold before ill-health compelled him to step down in 2014. Football runs through Gary’s family, it seems: his son kept goal for Caersws in the Welsh Premier League while a brother played to a good standard with Clay Cross Works.
We offer our condolences to Gary’s family and friends.