James Simpson may come from Leeds but is loving Manchester after England’s wheelchair stars get the recognition they deserve.
The stars of the show by now, the game having captured the nation’s imagination, can insist they still have one job to do – beat France into the World Cup.
But the exposure they’ve gotten means that a big part of the work — getting it out there — is done.
And in a moment the city they expect to lift the trophy shows what a huge impact they’ve made.
Former soldier Simpson, who lost his legs after stepping on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan, said: “It’s been quite a few moments but we arrived in Manchester on Monday and within 10 minutes, two different people called us Recognized and asked for pictures.
“That was fantastic. We were unrolling the bus and two different guys came over and said, ‘Are you the England wheelchair team?’
“We went out to dinner and someone recognized Jack Brown and poor Seb. It has been quite unexpected from people and it is amazing to see.
“It comes in moments you don’t expect – maybe once or twice in a match but not outside a hotel in Manchester when you’re unloading! It’s madness.
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“And Manchester is really accessible to us, I love that. We have people in chairs, people on crutches and people with prosthetics and we’re recovering.
“Even if we’re on the wrong side of the Pennines!”
Simpson and England’s wheelchair stars could cap off a monumental surge for the sport that has seen hundreds of thousands of people tune in and be amazed.
Another world record crowd is expected for the final tonight (Fri), a repeat of 2017 which saw France win 38-34, but despite the accolades and recognition, things haven’t quite panned out.
Simpson said: “The job is not done. It is wonderful for the country to love wheelchair rugby league but our aim is to win the World Cup.
“We don’t want to fall short. We’re here to win and we’re not getting too crazy. We don’t want to go out and act like something that doesn’t belong to us.
“I progress quickly, so I have put that behind me but for some other players, the last final could be behind their head.
“However, everyone’s focus is only on work. I have never seen us as a group like this and in every training session, the intent is 10 out of 10.
“As soon as one ends, everyone is straight at each other, ‘Well done, well done.’ It’s ace and it’s great to watch the players.
“And we are not even thinking about the huge opportunity. It’s all a game, that’s all.