RR: So then, Ellis Simms - is he any good?
Tom (UTMP): In short, yes. He’s a player who is destined to play in the Premier League and has class about him, as well as an element of trying something other players wouldn’t. If he can score an early goal and get some momentum, you’ll love him and he’ll smash double figures as a minimum. Like with any young player though, he will need trust from the manager, patience from the fans and a bit of luck in front of goal.
RR: How important was Simms to Blackpool when you got promoted?
Tom (UTMP): He played a key part and seemed to get better with more games and as the team around him got stronger and more confident. He epitomised our run-in and was on fire towards the end of the season, showing his talent was better than league one level as he grew in confidence. It was a real shame he got injured for the final.
RR: Was there any chance of him re-signing after his loan spell?
Tom (UTMP): According to reports, we had agreed terms with both Everton and the player but he’s opted to join Sunderland. It’s a shame because you always hope players will show loyalty and jump at the chance to come back, but given Critchley has left and he never actually got to play in front of a packed Bloomfield Road, it’s not a massive shock that he’s gone to a bigger club in Sunderland. It’s a risky one for him, but I hope it pays off.
RR: It looks like Sunderland have pipped Blackpool to his signing this time too - how do you feel about that?
Tom (UTMP): Last summer was all about bringing back Embleton, Simms and Ballard. We didn’t manage any of them but signed players to fill the gaps. With Simms, he was injured from preseason through to January and then we couldn’t wait around to see if he was available due to the managerial change at Everton so made other plans. This window really was the one for him to come back, but there’s probably too much time that’s gone between his previous spell - and now and he will want to play as high as he can.
RR: What sort of forward is he then? What can we expect from him?
Tom (UTMP): He benefitted from having a strike partner with us, but I see no reason why he can’t lead the line on his own too. He’s big and strong, but also quick and capable of running in behind which made him deadly in league one. I would reiterate that he’s a confidence player so get very excited if he scores early on in his spell as he will likely go on a run. When we first signed him, he looked miles off it from a mentality and physicality perspective, but he grew with confidence and regular games.
RR: I know it’s been a year since you last saw him up close, but what would you say were his biggest strengths and weaknesses?
Tom (UTMP): His strengths are his pace, clinical finishing and running at defenders when he gets towards the penalty box.
In terms of weaknesses - he’s not proven at this level, and might go into hiding if the crowd is a bit hostile and the game is going against you.
RR: Do you think he’s got what it takes at 21 year old to light up the Championship?
Tom (UTMP): If he was playing for us, I would say absolutely. As above, the big question mark is whether he can play in front of a packed crowd. It was behind closed doors in his season with us, he missed Wembley and then he’s had six months with Hearts so will have got a bit of a flavour of it, but the Championship and the Stadium of Light are going to be new for him.
RR: For anyone who isn’t sure about this signing, what would you say to them?
Tom (UTMP): It’s low risk and he will probably make an impact from the bench initially. He’s capable of doing something different, so if you’re chasing a game he can create something for himself, and if you’re protecting a lead he can also win aerial duels and protect possession. Providing Alex Neil uses him effectively, he’s sure to have a good spell. It will help that Embo and Ballard know him as well.