Praised for performances against Chelsea and Arsenal, what can Rangers expect from new defender Jack Simpson?
Back in August 2018, the defender was a 21-year-old with four appearances to his name and then Cherries manager Eddie Howe was keen for him to head out on loan for experience – but Simpson remained on the south coast while Rangers landed Joe Worrall on loan from Nottingham Forest instead.
Since then, Simpson has accumulated 35 appearances across all competitions, entrusted to hold out against top end attacks from the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool in the Premier League, and more recently, in the Championship.
Tracing his progression, it’s easy to see what has attracted Gerrard to the versatile defender praised for his passing ability, but who can also sweep up at the back – he has a wyscout rating of 66 percent for defensive loose-ball duels this term.
Simpson will join Rangers in the summer after signing a pre-contract agreement. A centre-half by trade, he has admitted he’s more suited centrally, but can slot in at left-back.
“I've played left-sided centre-half so I've seen what left-backs do," he said. “I do a lot of work with them so I think it's important when you're training to know more than one position. I think it's a good thing to be versatile.”
Having been with Bournemouth since the age of 12, Simpson scored on his debut for the Cherries, against Middlesbrough in the 2017 EFL Cup, and has been praised for the strength of his passing game.
According to WhoScored.com he has a pass-percentage of 84.6, which matches Connor Goldson’s domestic statistic in the Scottish Premiership, and betters the Rangers mainstay’s Europa League stats. It’s also just slightly below Filip Helander’s passing success-rate of 85.8 in the SPFL too.
“He’s got that rare composure on the ball,” said former boss Howe. “I remember one of the early performances he gave at Chelsea, as good a performance I’ve seen with the ball from a centre-half in a long, long time.
“He’s got that ability to find passes under pressure. He seems to rise to the occasion, which is a great quality to have mentally.”
Long passes, a trait exploited frequently from Rangers’ backline and particularly Goldson’s diagonals, doesn’t stack up quite so much – a 2.8 per game ranking is more similar to Helander’s 2.4 per game average than Goldson’s 5.4 domestic completion rate and 4.7 in the Europa League. But three quarters of his passes into the final third have been successful this season, via wyscout.
So Simpson looks capable of holding his own, once he settles into Scottish football.
A year ago, Howe admitted all that was missing from his game, was minutes. In January 2020 the Bournemouth boss said: “Physically he’s good. He’s six foot three, he can head the ball and is athletic. He does have everything – the only thing missing for Jack is the experience that a lot of the other players have.”
He’s also previously praised Simpson’s “lovely left-foot” and described him as “a lovely footballer,” praising a performance against Arsenal when the 24-year-old slotted in at left-back in a makeshift defence, adding: “He used the ball really well. He’s obviously a really good size so he adds aerially and physically.”