By Chris Harris
A decade ago Jay Simpson was a star-struck kid who lost his tongue when he met Ian Wright in the tunnel at Highbury. Last night the bustling striker did a passable impression of his all-time Arsenal hero.
Simpson produced two crisp finishes to catapult Arsène Wenger's youngsters into the last eight of the Carling Cup for the fourth successive season. It was the perfect way to mark his first start for the Club and took Simpson's tally at Emirates Stadium to five goals in 188 minutes when you take into account his hat-trick against Cardiff in the Youth Cup last year.
That works out at a goal every 37 minutes - a rate even Wright could not match. How Simpson would love to emulate the man who turned him onto the Club he now plays for.
"When I was growing up I used to watch Ian Wright and that's what made me an Arsenal fan," revealed Simpson. "I had posters of him on my wall.
"I met Wright once, it was quite a while ago at my first Arsenal match at Highbury. I met him in the tunnel and I was starstruck, I didn't know what to say to him! He shook my hand and I didn't know what to do! I was nine at the time. He's still an Arsenal fan and he would have been happy to see the English players out there tonight."
Simpson impressed with his intelligent running and cool finishing on Tuesday night, converting Jack Wilshere's through-ball four minutes before half time and slotting home Carlos Vela's cut-back after 68 minutes. Afterwards the 19-year-old explained how last year's loan spell at Millwall - and a pre-match chat with an Arsenal star - helped him against Wigan.
"I played on the wing for Millwall so my runs from wide positions have improved a lot," said Simpson.
"It was a whole new position to adapt to, especially with how Millwall play because it wasn't about getting the ball down and playing a passing game. It was about making runs in behind. If I got it to feet you would go down the line and cross it whereas at Arsenal you would normally pass it, so it's a lot different.
"Also I went up and spoke to Emmanuel Adebayor before the game and he gave me a bit of advice which paid off on the pitch. He told me that when I am shooting, just make sure I hit the target, don't concentrate too much on power.
"I scored a hat-trick in the Youth Cup at Emirates Stadium but this is a lot more special, especially because I am an Arsenal fan. I would have been happy with one so to get two is great.
"Now all of us want a big side, we want to test ourselves. That's what it's all about, playing against the big teams, the big-name players and seeing what you can do against them. If we get Manchester United or Liverpool, we'd want them to put out their first team because it would show they've got respect for us. I'd be delighted if we got them in the next round."Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source