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"Bootiful" Tim Stimpson: a profile

By Denise
February 19 2003

A profile of one of Leicester's most popular players, in fact the most popular if a poll on this site is to go by.

Tim Stimpson

Position: Full Back
Weight: 15st 12lbs
Height: 6' 3"
Date of Birth: 10/09/1973
Previous Clubs: Wakefield, West Hartlepool, Newcastle Falcons
Caps: England 19, British Lions 1
Appearances: 128(8)
Tries: 29
Total Points: 1581

Tim "Stimmo" Stimpson was born in Liverpool in 1973, he represented England Schools and England U21 as a young rugby player. Stimmo followed in his father's footsteps in going to university at Durham. Tim obtained a BA(Hons) in Anthropology from Grey College in 1995. Before becoming a professional rugby player Tim was a personnel manager. Stimmo joined Newcastle from West Hartlepool in 1996, the same year in which he obtained his first full England cap against Italy, he also made his debut for the Baabaas.

Tim's time at Newcastle was notable for several things. In 1997 he appeared for England in the Five Nations tournament and on the back of those performances he was chosen for the Lions tour to South Africa. However, on the tour Stimmo missed out to Neil Jenkins in the role of full-back.

On returning from the Lions tour Tim's rugby career took a turn for the worse. He found himself in Rob Andrew's bad-books for whatever reason - rumoured to be due to Stimmo asking for a pay rise, Rob dropped Stimpson from Newcastle's first XV in 1997-98, the year Newcastle won the Allied Dunbar Premiership. Stimmo has stated "that was the low point in my professional rugby career", "I'd had a wonderful career until that season, it was to be a horrible blip, and it took me quite a time to get over it".

In the summer of 1998 Stimmo signed for Tigers in what was Deano's first full season in the Director of Rugby role at the club, following a less than auspicious start at the end of the previous season. As so often happens the change of club proved to be a kick-start for Stimpson and in the first few weeks he put in some awesome performances in the 15 shirt. "Moving to Leicester was the best move I could possibly have made", indeed since Tim joined Leicester the Tigers have gone on to win at least one major trophy every year and more recently two or three.

Stimmo is the only player ever to have been involved in five league victories, and Tim's influence has been at the forefront of most of Leicester's success. His amazing kicking talent has seen Tigers scrape through some tough, close games over the years. Numerous encounters in the league run-ins have been turned by the boot but perhaps more memorable are his more recent efforts in the Heineken Cup.

Stimmo's inate ability to kick ridiculously long and difficult kicks have secured Tigers two consecutive European Cups. In Paris in 2001, Stimmo faced a stern test against one of the best goal-kickers around - the Italian-Argentinian Diego Dominguez, "the little fella" (as Bill McLaren would say) was near perfect that day and although Stade Francais never looked to threaten Tigers tryline right to the death Tigers were chasing the game.

After Leon Lloyd's fantastic try in the corner in the late stages of the Final the conversion was vital in order to prevent the Parisiens snatching the game back with a penalty, up steps Stimpson and the ball sails "straight down the middle" (excuse my singing voice) to seal the victory.

In the 2001-2002 Heineken season Stimmo was possibly even more influential in the eventual consecutive victory. The first time many of us thought it could be our year again must have been away to Perpignan. In an awesome atmosphere at the Stade Aime Giral Tigers looked to be heading for an inevitable away defeat with Stimpson seeming not to possess any kicking boots in the first half and with Thierry Lacroix putting in a perfect display. Tigers were 13 points down at one point and it didn't look good to say the least, however as so often happens Stimmo's kicking form came from somewhere to edge us back into the game with a little help from a Boothy try.

In the dying minutes of the game Stimpson had the opportunity to put Tigers in front and possibly give us the much needed away win. When the pressure is on Stimpson's the man, and even though the locals cheered when he slipped on his way to the ball it still managed to sail between the uprights although Stimmo ended up on his behind. However, when we thought we had done enough to win Tigers uncharacteristically (;)) gave away a penalty in their own half to give Thierry a chance to take the game.

At this point Lacroix had not missed one kick at goal, however unlike Stimpson who seems to thrive on the pressure others do not, Lacroix missed the kick and then went on to miss a subsequent kick also falling on his behind. The game seemed to sum up Stimpson's kicking, although he may never be the most accurate of kickers you have to admire his amazing ability to kick under pressure.

However, Stimmo hit the headlines with the unforgettable penalty kick against Llanelli in the semi-final of the cup in the same year. When it seemed that Llanelli had done enough to win the game Tigers controversially (when is Tigers winning a cup game not controversial!) were awarded a penalty after Llanelli collapsed a scrum 60 metres from the posts. There was no doubt in my mind that Stimmo would belt this one through, however as the plastic posts waved in the wind all of a sudden it didn't look as certain as I had first thought. He struck the ball well and it was going in the right direction however the ball was dipping which actually surprised me as I was certain it would sail through the middle of the posts with room to spare.

The ball hit the cross-bar and at that moment there was an unbelievable tension in the ground with both sets of supporters desperately hoping the ball would fall in their favour. The ball bounced up off the cross-bar and hit the left upright, which thankfully was enough to help it over leaving half the stadium depressed and the other ecstatic. What a kick! Tigers supporters appreciated it so much they bought the t-shirt. Sam Vesty recently hit a penalty using the same technique which generated a small chant of Stimmo! Stimmo! on the terraces, in honour of this tremendous kick.

When talking about his kicking Tim says: "There's much more chance of landing the really big one in a match. You can normally add 10 yards to your range come match day. The adrenalin will be pumping and you can do exceptional things under pressure. Channel all that and the ball can really fly. Of course your technique could fall apart under pressure and it could be a bit embarassing, but that's the risk." Stimmo started the current season on fine form and made the history books by becoming the first player in the premiership to score over 1000 points and receive the Golden Boot.

However, there is a lot more to Stimpson's game than his boot. Stimmo often surprises spectators by how big and muscular he is, he wouldn't look out of place on the flank and in a couple of games he has added his weight to the back-row in the event of (heaven-forbid!) one of them being binned. A Stimmo with confidence devastates the opposition, shrugging off tackle after tackle and making yards and yards, when on that sort of form it is difficult to see why he hasn't made more appearances in an England shirt.

One such performance was in the Heineken Cup Final against Munster, where his efforts earnt him the MOTM award, however his and the team's efforts were later overshadowed by the media focus on Neil Back slapping a ball. In that game he made a fantastic run that saw him put Geordan Murphy through for a wonderful try.

The current season has been a strange one for both Tigers and Stimpson. Unlike Tigers, Stimmo's form at the beginning of the season was fantastic, with the game against his former club Newcastle when he scored 32 points perhaps being the pinnacle. With performances such as those Woodward would have been a fool not to pick him for the Internationals. He did make the squad but much to Tigers' supporters annoyance his major job seemed to be keeping the bench warm.

Since returning to the club fold his form has not reached the high standards we are used to and along with several other members of the team he was dropped after the defeat at home to Northampton. Rumours were rife that following that game Stimmo may have been a bit too honest about his thoughts on having to play wing rather than 15, however the dropping coincided with a calf injury. Since his return his kicking has been superb but he still seems to be lacking a bit of confidence in open play and unfortunately the management persists with playing him on the wing. There have been signs of improvement though so hopefully we will see him on top form again soon.

Stimmo is obviously one of the most popular Tigers players with the fans, with countless devoted supporters wearing his name proudly on the back of their shirt and buying the commemorative "Can he kick it?" t-shirts. However, Stimmo's singing talents are just as memorable as the kicks and to this day I still get flash-backs of his rendition of 'Hey Jude' in the Tigers bar a couple of years back, which involved one verse and about 5 minutes of 'Jude, Judey Judey Judey Jude'. I think that version was the best I have ever heard, certainly the most enthusiastic but maybe I'm biased. Let's hope he gives us another demonstration of his vocal talents in the near future.

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