MATHEU Debuchy represents the future at Newcastle United – but Danny Simpson’s still a player for the present.
And Simpson knows his 134th appearance for the club will be as important as any that have gone before it.
After all, the right-back and his team-mates are 90 minutes away from the Europa League’s quarter-finals.
Simpson watched the club’s Premier League win over Stoke City on Sunday from the sidelines.
But the 26-year-old will be back on the pitch against Anzhi Makhachkala at St James’s Park tomorrow night.
With January signing Debuchy ineligible for the Europa League, Simpson – who will leave the club in the summer when his contract expires – has gladly seized his chance in the competition.
“This is a big deal for me, this tournament,” Simpson said.
“I’m getting games. The manager’s giving me a chance. For me, it’s massive.
“If we can win, and get through to the quarter-finals, it would be great for the club and everyone involved.”
The two clubs played out a goalless draw at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium last week.
On a freezing night in the Russian capital, Newcastle had to be at their defensive best against an attack-minded team featuring Samuel Eto’o and Willian.
United will go into the return leg knowing they must show different qualities on home turf, with Alan Pardew’s side – who started their European journey back in August – needing at least one goal to qualify in normal time.
However, Simpson believes that the pressure will be on Guus Hiddink’s team – not Newcastle.
“I’m pretty sure the stadium will be full,” said 26-year-old Simpson. “The pressure’s on them.”
Simpson played in the Champions League with former club Manchester United. And the Salford-born player relishes the unique challenges that come with European football.
“You want to play the best players in the world – that’s what football’s about,” he added.
“There’s Eto’o and Willian, who’s a quality player.
“He got injured, but Eto’o has shown in glimpses he’s still a world-class player.
“They’ve got some good players. We’re going to take some positives from the game, and we’re pretty confident we can go back to St James’s Park and win.
“Everyone knows their jobs – one to 11 – whatever position they play in. They know the jobs they’ve got to do.
“The lads that have come in have done well, and that’s all you can ask.”
Pardew’s players didn’t just have to tackle Eto’o and his colleagues in Moscow, they also had to contend with the Luzhniki Stadium’s artificial pitch, and sub-zero temperatures.
“We adjusted well,” said Simpson. “It was a good result, really, and it was another clean sheet.
“(The pitch) was different to what I’ve played on before. We’re not used to playing on it.
“The ball moves differently. The weather was freezing, but it was the same for both teams.
“I’m sure if we can do what we did (in Moscow), with our fans behind us, we can go through.”