When the news of Ellis Simms’ sudden recall to Everton broke late on Friday night before being officially confirmed on Saturday morning, it was greeted with a mixture of frustration and concern from many Sunderland fans- not least because it meant that he’d be unavailable for tomorrow’s trip to Blackpool.
After a promising loan spell on Wearside, during which time he scored seven league goals and often dovetailed effectively with Ross Stewart, the young striker is on his way back to Merseyside as Frank Lampard desperately seeks attacking reinforcements in order to keep the Toffees afloat.
The upshot is that for now, we’ve been left with one frontline striker in Stewart, and January’s transfer demands have been brought into even sharper focus.
Personally, I’m sad to see him leave, because I’m a huge fan of Simms.
Despite criticisms of his playing style (certainly in comparison to the explosive Stewart) and some rather distasteful remarks about whether he feigned injury at Reading, he added value to our attack during his time in red and white. Crucially, he also provided us with some much-needed depth behind the big Scot.
There’s no ill will towards Everton regarding the end of his loan spell, although I do worry that pitching Simms into a relegation battle at Goodison Park may not be as conducive to his development as his time on Wearside, but only time will tell.
One major positive is that Simms has departed right at the start of the window, leaving us with ample time to replace him. This means that we should avoid a last-ditch scramble, which has often been the case in years gone by.
It’s imperative, therefore, that there’s no element of panic from the club hierarchy, and I don’t believe there will be.
If Kristjaan Speakman and Stuart Harvey have learned the lessons from last January, and the saga of Jermain Defoe’s return, they’ll have had targets in mind for some time and will’ve laid the groundwork to secure their services as swiftly and efficiently as possible.
Forward planning is key, and Speakman’s statement, during which he expressed his gratitude for Simms’ efforts, was as diplomatic as you would expect. Indeed, the situation simply highlights the double-edged sword of loan deals, but it’s fair to say that we’ve certainly benefited from his time here.
Quite how this affects Stewart’s contractual situation, and the urgency to renew his deal, is unknown, but the demands to ‘give him what he wants’ are only likely to grow louder.
For now, as attention turns to potential arrivals, and with names such as Aston Villa’s Cameron Archer being bandied around, could Nathan Broadhead be a viable option?
Yes, there’s been plenty of fallout from his decision to choose Wigan over us last summer, but it feels like there’s an element of unfinished business at Sunderland for the Welshman, and within our current system, he’d surely be able to contribute with goals and assists.
Injury worries persist with Broadhead, but there’s no doubt in my mind that his ability is being wasted at the DW Stadium, even if he moved there for his own sound reasons.
When they visited the Stadium of Light earlier in the season, he barely got a kick, and on Thursday night, he didn’t even get off the bench. That’s simply not a good place to be for a player of his undoubted talent, and I think that he’d relish the chance to have another crack in the red and white stripes.
However, if we didn’t bring him back, who’s to say that the club won’t come up trumps and secure the services of another forward who can contribute as impressively as Simms did?
Losing the young striker is a blow, without a doubt, but it’s not a season-defining moment.
There’s no reason to lose faith in our chances of replacing him, and by the end of next month, I’m confident that our attacking options will be as exciting and as plentiful as they were during his final game for us, as we cruised past the Latics 4-1 on Thursday evening.