Newcastle defender's joy as baby daughter wins fight

Danny Simpson's little girl was born six weeks early – weighing just 3lb – but is getting stronger by the day
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In a hospital ward in the shadow of St James' Park, a battle is being fought, and a battle is being won.

It is an intensely personal story of triumph over adversity, one to eclipse anything that could ever be achieved on the Gallowgate, even here, where many concur with Bill Shankly's thoughts on football, life and death.

The existence of the average Premier League player would seem to revolve around a comfortably familiar routine of playing, training and using their plentiful disposable income to boost the profits of Nando's.

Up until recently, Danny Simpson fitted that description to a tee, but not any longer. Portuguese-style flame-grilled chicken somewhat loses its charm when there is a daily bedside vigil to be maintained.

The Newcastle defender's life turned upside down at the end of July, when his daughter was born six weeks prematurely. Skye-Lorena weighed just three and a half pounds. She remains at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, a goal-kick from the city's footballing cathedral, where she is being cared for after her unscheduled entry into the world.

She is now up to five pounds and making good progress, and the worst, thankfully, is over. Such has been her progress, Simpson and his partner, Steph, hope to have their little fighter back home early next month. Skye's nursery at home has been ready for weeks; Simpson saw to that in what has been an emotionally draining chapter in the 24-year-old's life.

While it seems trite to talk about keeping things in perspective, that's exactly what it has done. Simpson remains as focused as ever on the pitch, even though the last four weeks have helped him see football for the glorious distraction that it really is. "It was a very difficult time for us when she arrived so early," he admitted.

"Hopefully, we're through the worst of it, and the staff at the RVI have been brilliant. Thankfully, Skye's putting on weight and is up to five pounds three ounces and getting stronger all the time. She's doing really well and, hopefully, she'll be home in a week or so."

His daughter's unexpected arrival meant Simpson – on his way back from the club's pre-season tour of the United States – missed the birth. Still, his predicament, some 30,000 feet over the Atlantic, at least helped the couple to settle on a name.

"I was literally up in the sky when she was born," the former Manchester United defender revealed. "It was the longest eight-and-a-half-hour flight of my life. That's why she's called Skye-Lorena. We came up with the name the night I saw her." It's fortunate he had not already landed – Heathrow Simpson might take some getting used to.

"It was the proudest day of my life when she was born," he added. "It's amazing how your mentality changes once you become a parent. It's just completely different to anything you've been used to. Changing a nappy for the first time was a real experience, but it was nice watching Match of the Day with my little girl in my arms. I've put together all the furniture in Skye's nursery, it's ready for her to come home."

Newcastle host Fulham tomorrow aiming to extend their unbeaten start. "During the games, of course I want to win badly, but straight after I turn into a family man. I'll ring the hospital to make sure everything is OK.

"I now have a family to look after and I've had to become very strong for them. Usually, your life revolves around training, playing games and seeing your mates." And, let us not forget, that Nando's season ticket.

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