GLOUCESTER’S greatest? In a sport of specialist positions, the debate may be fatuous but there is no doubt Kingsholm’s fans believe they saw the very best when James Simpson-Daniel played in cherry and white.
After the wonder wing was forced to end his career due to injury on Tuesday, supporters and players have been queuing up to pay tribute to ‘Sinbad’ who lit up Kingsholm and all-too-briefly, the international stage.
“There aren't many sets of rugby supporters in the world who immediately look to see who's playing left wing when their team is announced,” said Gloucester Rugby fan Andrew Tee. “For 14 years or so that's what Gloucester fans have done. He is the best player I've had the privilege of watching in my time - I'd put James Simpson-Daniel in the same bracket as Shane Williams and Jason Robinson.”
Former Citizen rugby reporter and club media officer Alastair Downey witnessed many of Sinbad’s stunning moments, home and away.
“In some ways he was so un-English,” said Alastair. “In an era of brute force and size, he captivated through his skill, vision, footwork and speed.
“He had the mesmerising ability to create something special in the blink of an eye with his hands.
“He escaped the drudge, the remorseless battering. He floated. In Gloucester he will be loved and loved all the more because he failed to achieve the international recognition he deserved.
“He is the great lost talent of the generation as far as England are concerned. Quite simply, unique.”
Stroud fan Andrew Wise reflected on a career which thanks to injury and illness yielded 10 England caps and almost certainly cost him a place in England’s world cup-winning side.
“It was a brilliant career, possibly frustrating for him I would imagine,” he said. “He did not get the international recognition that he so richly deserved. It was an absolute honour to see him play. He was just pure class. I don’t think there are many better professional players.
“It is the passing of a golden age. It’s very sad for him to have it dictated to him, rather than go out at a point of his choosing. You have to commend his loyalty. He must have been coveted by every big money club but he stayed at Gloucester.”
Tom Lydon from Leonard Stanley said whenever Sinbad was on the pitch ‘you knew there was a chance something special could happen’.
“So many truly brilliant tries stand out - the only try in the last game of the season at a packed Kingsholm against Bath,” he said. “And surely not just the best Sinbad memory but one of the greatest Gloucester moments, that try against Wasps in the last game of the season, the ducking and diving that left Dallaglio dizzy, James Bailey scoring, Stuart Barnes spellbound and all in Cherry and White cheering and jumping for joy.
“He is legend who leaves us all saying “Yeah, but he ain't as good as Sinbad’.”
Typically, Sinbad has taken the trouble to respond to every Tweet and message of goodwill. If that is one measure of the man, so too is his commitment to the club, through thick and thin.
What team in the world would not have wanted to sign him? He must have had some lucrative offers but he wanted to stay - and the club, the city and the fans wanted him to stay, probably more than any other player to grace the Kingsholm ground.
Bob Rumble, chairman of Kingsholm Supporters Mutual said: "He was the best threequarter I ever saw, including Jason Robinson and Shane Williams.
"He is a thoroughly cracking bloke too. I have never known such an outpouring of grief from people. It's just as if there has been a bereavement.
"We loved watching him and we will miss him greatly but we have fantastic memories and in time I hope he can reflect on a marvellous career."
Fan Dave Evans said he and his wife Sue will miss him. "He will be sadly missed," said Dave. "A true legend, such a naturally talented rugby player and true gentleman on and off the pitch. We wish you and your family all the best for the future."
Miles Rackliff said dummying Jonah Lomu and turning Lawrence Dallaglio inside out will live long in the memory.
"James Simpson-Daniel is held in the highest of regard by home and rival supporters alike - that is a sign of a true talent," he said. "He had that rare combination of possessing both a lightning quick rugby mind and the speed of feet to match. He always looked to exploit the smallest of gaps, skilled hands and awareness creating opportunities for his team mates."