Carlisle United boss Paul Simpson
Carlisle have won 16 of their 34 League Two games since Paul Simpson returned to the club in February

When Paul Simpson's phone started ringing, he was in his car with his wife.

The hospital told the boss that they needed to get him booked in for surgery as soon as possible.

As soon as someone mentions cancer, you get hit with a sledgehammer. My wife was very worried.

Three weeks later Simpson, 56, was undergoing a seven-hour operation to remove his left kidney after being diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma - a type of kidney cancer.

The England boss reached out and offered assistance.

Simpson had become the second England manager to win a World Cup after leading the Under-20s to glory.

"Gareth called to see how I was and said how shocked he was," says Simpson. He got in touch and wished me good luck.

Simpson is getting ready to manage his hometown club in the second round of the FA Cup on Saturday, while England's World Cup game with the United States is taking place.

Simpson said that he was lucky to still be involved in football and that he had a good doctor who dealt with his cancer.

'I was wasting away'

Simpson, part of the backroom team at Bristol City, was booked in for an annual health check as the club prepared to return to pre-season training.

I had a cough for about a year. Simpson said it wasn't painful but he was coughing a lot.

I had had a lot of tests and tried a lot of things. Nobody could tell me what was going on.

In many cases, there are no obvious symptoms of kidney cancer at first and it may only be found during tests for another condition or reason.

During Simpson's health check at the Wilmslow Hospital, Dr Sally Harris suggested that Simpson should have aCT Scan to find out what was causing him to cough so much.

"I was living a good lifestyle and keeping myself fit," says the former boss.

I had a tumours on the scans.

Simpson had an operation three weeks after he was diagnosed.

The former Manchester City and Derby player lost one and a half stone in weight after he had surgery.

Simpson and his wife lived in the market town of Ashbourne and neighbours would leave cakes on their door step.

He thinks they wanted to make him fat. I was wasting away even if it was the cancer or the worry.

Simpson farewelled Jacqui outside the hospital on the day of the surgery. Covid restrictions prevented her from entering.

It was a success.

Simpson returned to Bristol City at the end of August, just weeks after he was diagnosed. His wardmates were not so lucky.

People were worse off than I was. Simpson said there were some sad cases.

They took my left organ. There was a tumours in the center of it. There are millions of people in the world who have no problems with their only organ.

I was fortunate that my cancer was dealt with quickly.

Paul Simpson pictured in 2005 after leading Carlisle United to promotion to the Football League
Paul Simpson pictured in 2005 after leading Carlisle United to promotion to the Football League

'I don't get screwed up like I used to'

Simpson left Bristol City in October of 2011.

It is a great club. When I was away, the staff kept in touch with each other. It was as if they had a part in it.

He was back at the club that he twice led to promotion during his first stint in charge.

He was born five minutes away from Brunton Park. Growing up, I was a big fan of Carlisle. I was in the kids' pen below my dad on the Warwick Road.

Simpson was offered his first managerial job at Rochdale in the early 1990's. He is a different man than he was before the cancer.

He doesn't think cancer has changed him, but he appreciates life. I got so messed up trying to be brilliant and chase the dream when I was in management.

I don't get stressed out about the job as much as I used to.

Paul Simpson with Prince William and Josh Onomah in 2017
Paul Simpson with Prince William and Josh Onomah during a reception for England Under-20s at Kensington Palace following their World Cup success in 2017

'It will live with me forever'

Simpson and his wife moved to Cumbria after he was hired.

The pride of place in his study is his World Cup winner's medal from five years ago, which hangs over a framed letter from Prince William.

Simpson was the second Englishman to win a World Cup. Steve Cooper became the third after the Under 17s won in India.

Fikayo Tomori, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Kyle Walker-Peters are some of the players who went on to play for the senior side.

Simpson says leading the national team to victory will stay with him for the rest of his life.

Simpson wants to watch the World Cup on television because he doesn't have much free time.

While the World Cup is on our season is going on as usual, but I will be watching if I get the chance.

All the players should be able to perform to the level they are capable of. They have a chance if they do.