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Can Ellis Simms be Everton’s January saviour?

The Toffees recalled the young striker but to what end?

Everton FC v Brighton & Hove Albion - Premier League Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

Now that it has been confirmed that Ellis Simms has returned to Goodison Park six months ahead of schedule, he’s yet to see any extended action outside of a few minutes in the walloping by Brighton. The need for goals to come from somebody in a blue shirt has never been more obvious but few would have thought that, in our time of need, we would actually turn to one of our own exports to solve the problem.

Although there have been several instances of Everton players returning early from season-long loans it has usually been the case that it has been because of a lack of game time at the loan club. That has not been the issue for Simms at Sunderland . Despite missing seven games with a toe injury, he has played the full 90 minutes (or until very late in games) in nine of his 17 appearances for the Black Cats and registered seven goals and provided two assists. Not a shabby return at all from the former England Under 18 international.

To put the imminent return into context, the last time I can remember Everton sending out an SOS for a striker we still “owned” was way back in the spring of ‘97 when Paul Rideout was famously recalled by caretaker boss Dave Watson to come back to solve a player number crisis. He had literally been en route to a transfer to a Chinese club after terms had been agreed. Rideout, a prolific goalscorer at youth level in his early years and indeed the last man to score a trophy-winning goal for the Toffees, ironically played his last game as a makeshift midfielder but his help was enormous. Put simply, then, as with now, Everton comes first!

So, to the modern day crisis as Everton struggle woefully to score goals and a similarly prolific goal scorer in his formative years is now back in the fold, not returning from China but from the North East of the UK.

I’ve seen a lot of Simms over the past four years. To give you some idea of just how prolific he has been at Everton, in just one season as a 17 year old in 2018/19 he made 29 appearances for the Under 18s and scored a whopping 37 goals! As he progressed to the Under 21 set up the following season, he scored an impressive 9 in 19 games. A further 8 goals in 12 games for Everton at that level saw the first of his loans in 2021 arrive and in the tangerine of Blackpool he fired a healthy 10 goals in 24. He followed that last season with a reasonable return of 7 goals in 21 for Scottish premier league Hearts.

That said, what do we know of his strengths and weaknesses and how he might fare in the English Premier League?

Simms is a sizeable unit at 6’3”, has good strength and has pace without being lightning quick. He is predominantly right-footed but I have seen enough of him to expect that he will not be found wanting if the ball arrives at his weaker foot. In his last full season at Everton it was clear that the club had also invested into developing his hold-up play which progressed to a good standard, most likely under the watchful eye of former club legend, Duncan Ferguson.

What must Everton now do to make the recall worthwhile? Although Frank Lampard has since been cautious in what he is expecting from Simms I would simply say to give him a chance. If, disappointingly, we bring him back to sit on the bench it won’t benefit us or Simms. He won’t always be easy on the eye, he’s not blessed with silky dribbling skills or a graceful attacking style, he doesn’t excel in the air either in spite of his height. What the coaching staff really need to consider is what style of play or circumstances provided this goal scorer with the opportunity to put the ball in the net? We mustn’t try to shoe-horn him into a style of play that does not suit him. One point of note is that the Blues have struggled to stamp a defined attacking style this season so it’s not as if we have to change the world so there’s an ironic bonus there?

Everton on Pre-Season Tour in the USA Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

If we look back at his most prolific period it was by him getting on the shoulder of the last defender, looking for through balls and using pace and strength to get towards the opposition penalty area and get a shot away. Sounds very simple and indeed it is. The breakaway chance that Neal Maupay fluffed against Wolves last weekend was a classic example of a chance that Simms would relish. He’d certainly not have come second in the race if he was given a head start! Like all good goalscorers he will score scruffy goals more than spectacular ones.

It’s a step up for young Simms, a big one. Will he convert every chance he gets? Absolutely not. Will he have us purring over his general play? Probably not. Will he hit the target ? Yes he will. He doesn’t need asking twice to shoot.

His number of assists is not that great not because he’s not a team player but rather because he recognises his job is to score goals not create them. He did provide a nifty assist for the Blues lone goal against the Seagulls with his searching pass leading to Alex Iwobi being fouled in the box. It’s maybe that single-mindedness that will give Ellis the chance to finally show he can do the job in a blue shirt in the top flight. If he’s presented with a chance or half-chance in front of goal and a player is in the same position nearby him don’t expect him to pass the buck. It’ll either go in or hit the target, not sideways. Come on Ellis, seize the day!