Played For Both Sides – The return of another loanee

We take a look at one player to have played for both sides - and it's a fairly recent memory...

Transfer deadline day is looming, Sunderland still need some important work to be done before the proverbial window gently closes, and without wanting to repeat myself again, a striker is an absolute must.

This weekend is about as tough as it gets in the Championship, before you even consider our hilarious record of only one win over Coventry since the turn of the millennium; they’re a team full of talented giants and they specialise in bullying you on their turf on the odd season where they’re actually allowed to play in Coventry.

So, shall we take a look at a player who is undoubtedly odds on favourite to do considerable damage to Sunderland this weekend?


Like Nathan Broadhead a few weeks ago, Ellis Simms scoring against Sunderland this weekend feels so inevitable that any travelling fans should automatically be comped a large chunk of the hideous ticket price immediately.

Simms bounced through the academies of Blackburn and Man City before finding himself on Merseyside with Everton, and was on the peripheral of the first team as early as 2020, still only 19 years old. The striker’s first taste of senior football came in the 20/21 season, when he headed out on loan to Blackpool in League One at the end of the January transfer window.

His arrival coincided with Neil Critchley’s men going on an insane run, turning a relegation threatened season into one that ended in play-off glory; they only lost two of their remaining league fixtures from January onwards.

Simms’ league debut saw him net two as the Seasiders put five past Wigan, and although his next three goals came spread over three months, his physical presence helped Blackpool batter their way up the table on their way to Wembley.

At the Official Business End of the 20/21 season, Simms hit a purple patch, scoring a brace in a win against Doncaster and the winner at home to Bristol Rovers as Blackpool confirmed their place in the play-offs.

The first leg of the semi-final saw Blackpool annihilate Oxford 3-0, with Simms getting another brace, but unfortunately for the forward, an injury picked up in the return leg meant that he had to watch on from the bench as future Sunderland teammates Dan Ballard and Elliot Embleton sealed promotion to the Championship, beating Sunderland’s victors, Lincoln City in the final.

A big step up was expected of Simms the following season, so it was with a little surprise that rather than head to the Championship he was stuck at Everton for the first half of the season, although he did make his Premier League debut against Chelsea in December.

He ultimately found himself on loan at Hearts in the SPL  for the second half of the season, and another sprinkling of form which saw him score seven times in 20 appearances in all competitions. Simms will likely be fondly remembered on one side of Edinburgh, as he opened the scoring in Hearts’ 2-1 victory of city rivals Hibs in April 2022.

At the end of the 21/22 season, bigger things were expected of Simms, and he finally found himself in the Championship, signing for newly-promoted Sunderland, backing himself to provide support and competition for Ross Stewart; a shocking statement, I know.

Simply put, Simms got off to a flyer in red and white, hitting a brace on his debut in our 3-2 win at Bristol City. His second game saw him score what should’ve been the winner at home to QPR, before we thought it’d be really funny to concede twice in the last five minutes, including once to their keeper.

A dry spell followed for Simms as he found his feet in the Championship, but when disaster struck, with Stewart’s first big injury in September, Simms was hit by spectacularly Sunderland-flavoured luck as he broke his toe in the very next game. And so began Sunderland’s traditional phase of playing without a striker.

When Simms found himself back to full fitness in November, he hit a decent run of form, scoring in wins against Birmingham, Millwall, Blackburn and Wigan, giving us all hope that the play-offs were a realistic shout if we could keep him fit.

Naturally, Simms was instead recalled by Frank Lampard at Everton for seemingly no other reason than utter desperation, Ross Stewart’s Achilles exploded and Joe Gelhardt was thrown to the wolves. It really is quite funny that we managed to stagger into the play-offs despite it all.

The second half of the 22/23 season saw Simms make do with late sub appearances as Everton flailed to keep their heads above the relegation zone, but one highlight saw him score his first (and only) goal for the Toffees, an 89th minute equaliser away to an admittedly crap Chelsea side.

Summer 2023 came around and Simms was a hot property among Championship sides with an ambition to make a go of it, he had proved himself a physical handful with solid technical ability, enough to cause second tier defences major problems, albeit he was still a little raw.

Sunderland were of course linked, and he would have so very obviously been a good signing for us, but, ignoring the fact that we are stubbornly pushing on with the propaganda that no other strikers are going to want to come and not be first choice, the price that Simms went for in the end was simply way above what Sunderland would be willing to pay.

Coventry secured Simms’ signature in July for a reported initial £3.5m, rising to £8m – arguably too much for a player with only less than 100 games under his belt, but one with a proven record of scoring in the Championship. Simms’ start to life in Coventry has been subdued so far, appearing in all of their first three fixtures and their cup loss to Wimbledon, without finding the back of the net.

The only thing more obvious than Simms scoring against Sunderland this weekend is that Sunderland will still not have signed a replacement for him by Saturday, despite him having left in January.

Joined Left League Apps League Goals
Sunderland 2022 2023 17 7
Coventry 2023 Present 3 0