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A Sunderland return for Ellis Simms would be interesting, but will we pursue it?

After spending a productive half season on loan at the Stadium of Light in 2022/2023, perhaps it’s inevitable that we’d now be linked with a permanent move for him, writes Phil West

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

‘His body language was really poor’

‘He’s slow and lethargic, and his touch is awful’

‘He’s not good enough. We can do better’

These are three criticisms of Ellis Simms that have been doing the rounds recently as we discuss the pros and cons of potentially bringing back the Everton striker who spent a largely fruitful, if injury-interrupted loan spell at the Stadium of Light last season.

Wigan Athletic v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - DW Stadium Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

Personally, I find it all quite strange, even if I’m willing to acknowledge that Simms isn’t as explosive as Ross Stewart, and that defending from the front and working immensely hard both in and out of possession aren’t really to his liking either.

Perhaps it was simply because he was being judged against the dynamism and all-round game of Stewart, a comparison that would make many strikers look sub standard.

However, he was never the carthorse that some claimed, and I really do believe he’d have a lot more to give if he returned to the club this summer.

It’s obvious that as the summer rolls on, we’ll be linked with a multitude of strikers (the potential signing of Luis Semedo from Benfica ‘B’ seems to be the most concrete rumour at the time of writing) and earlier this week, we were apparently facing competition from Ipswich to bring Simms back to Wearside.

The rumoured asking price is £3.5 million- not an insubstantial fee for a club who’s now keeping such a tight rein on its finances, but on the other hand, for a striker of Simms’ profile- young, with the potential to improve and someone who’s already tasted life in red and white- you could say that it’s a fairly modest outlay.

It’s fair to say that his loan spell wasn’t always plain sailing, not least because he missed out on a large chunk of the campaign after being injured at Reading, but two goals in particular stand out in my mind, and for entirely different reasons.

Birmingham City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

The first, a confidently-dispatched strike past John Ruddy during our 2-0 win at St Andrews after some excellent work from Amad, hinted at what Simms could do if he added a bit more purpose and sharpness to his admittedly languid style of play.

The second, a stabbed finish to secure a crucial victory over Blackburn looked somewhat bizarre in real time as he prodded the ball home, but it was a classic poacher’s goal in a tense moment- and his celebration wasn’t bad either!

These were key strikes, and as the New Year arrived and Stewart fell victim to injury once again, what would we have given to have such an option to call on in the Scot’s absence?

Simms may be a bit of a mystery and his true potential might not have been unlocked yet, but there’s no doubt in my mind that with a good standard of service and the backing of Tony Mowbray, he could be a twenty-plus goal Championship striker.

His goal return for us last season was impressive and if you extrapolate that over forty six games, fitness permitting, his contribution could easily make all the difference if we’re aiming to mount a sustained promotion push.

Frankly, the kind of goals he scores are immaterial (the ‘Charlie Wyke theory’, if you will). We need to share the responsibility around the team, and I’m certain that he could deliver.

Another issue concerns that of his personal development.

Simms’ recall by Everton was fair enough, even if the timing wasn’t great, but he rarely featured when he returned to Goodison Park and you have to wonder what’s better for him: regular football with us or the uncertainty of remaining on Merseyside and not being assured of regular game time?

Everton FC v Newcastle United - Premier League Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

If Semedo joins, and there’s nothing to suggest he won’t, that might well kibosh any prospective deal for Simms, and it would certainly show that the club haven’t hung their hats on a return for the Everton striker at the expense of other targets.

I really like him and I’d love to see him in red and white next season, but as ever, we’re not the ones making the big calls and writing the cheques. Trust should’ve been earned by the club hierarchy, and this is another example.

It’s difficult to shake off the notion that Simms is a ‘confidence player’ and someone who needs an arm round the shoulder in order to keep him in a positive frame of mind and therefore play at his best.

However, with Tony Mowbray guiding his team of young players impressively and giving them the space and time to develop, he’d fit back into this Sunderland team with ease.


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