Of all the trophies and all the medals there are to win in professional football, undeniably, the World Cup is the absolute pinnacle.
51 years ago, Sir Alf Ramsey’s England achieved the nation’s first-ever global footballing domination by defeating West Germany in the 1966 World Cup Final at the old Wembley.
That very much remained the case up until last Sunday, 11th June 2017, when former Ram Paul Simpson and his England Under-20 side wrote themselves into the history books.
After being asked to take the team following the step-up of Aidy Boothroyd to the Under-21s and Gareth Southgate to the senior team, Simpson was tasked with heading up the side’s Under-20 World Cup campaign in South Korea.
Simpson, who made 225 appearances for the Rams as player between 1992 and 1997, successfully orchestrated his side to finish top of Group A beating both Argentina 3-0 and host side South Korea 1-0, with a 1-1 draw against Guinea inbetween.
Following England’s group stage triumph, Simpson’s side then went on to overcome Costa Rica (2-1), Mexico (1-0) and Italy (3-1) before the all-important 1-0 victory over Venezuela in the Under-20 World Cup Final.
Speaking at length to RamsTV, Simpson – who held the position of First Team Coach at Derby between September 2013 and the summer of 2015 - took the time discuss everything from the initial feeling of winning the competition to the importance of planning ahead.
“To be honest, it’s a feeling that I can’t really sum up,” Simpson, who is 51 next month, explained.
“When you win, there’s a relief, there’s pure elation, there’s everything really.
“I felt an honour initially to go and be asked to work for the Football Association because I’m a real patriotic England supporter.
“Going in the World Cup finals, I knew that we had a good squad but I don’t think I realised how good until we got them together in France and had a three-game tournament over there against Portugal, France and Senegal.
“The players really were outstanding and so I was fairly confident going into the competition but not deluded enough to think that we were going to win so to be able to come away with a medal and the trophy was fantastic.”
But over a successful and varied career spanning just shy of 35 years, where does this achievement rank for Simpson?
The former Rochdale, Carlisle United, Preston North End, Shrewsbury Town and Stockport County boss answered: “I’ve said before that I have had a really good career and I’ve loved every single moment of it. I’ve had low points as everybody does but I’ve had some really good highs as well.
“I’ve been involved in promotions; I’ve represented my country at Under-18 and Under-21 level and I’ve worked at some wonderful football clubs.
“But reflecting on all of that, this achievement tops everything.
“To lead an England side into a World Cup, to come back with the trophy for the first time in 51 years; it is a really big achievement and it’s up there with anything that I have done in the game.
“I just feel really fortunate to have been able to be with this group of players but also the group of staff that we were with as well. They were all top people who were really keen to do the job.”