In our weekly Scout feature, we take a deep dive into an emerging player on track to become a footballing superstar before our very eyes.
This week’s edition focuses on Everton hitman Ellis Simms, a man who has developed an insatiable appetite for scoring goals.
The centre-forward, 19, joined the Toffees’ academy from Manchester City in the summer of 2017.
Standing at 6’ 1’ and still growing, Simms’ height and broad frame have caused havoc for young defenders across the country.
Far more than just a target man, however, the striker blazed a goalscoring trail in the under-18s – the likes of which we have rarely seen.
Simms’ impressive form in front of goal continued after his promotion to the Under-23s last year.
Eight goals have been notched from 11 appearances in the current campaign as calls for his elevation to the senior side continue to grow.
Why the hype?
During the 2018/19 season, Simms registered an extraordinary 32 goals in 21 games that included five hat-tricks. The campaign also included two sensational purple patches of 14 goals in seven matches and another of 11 goals in five.
Those numbers put the Everton frontman atop the goalscoring charts in the Under-18 Premier League that year.
Indeed, his goalscoring return of 1.63 goals per 90 minutes topped the ratios of highly touted Arsenal and Manchester United forwards Folarin Balogun (1.45 goals per 90 minutes) and Mason Greenwood (1.2 goals per 90 minutes).
— HLTCO (@HLTCO) July 20, 2020
Simms’ relentless appetite for goals is satiated by his powerful strike and desire to shoot from all angles and ranges.
He is frequently found playing on the shoulder of the last defender and has been blessed with a physique that will make even the most rugged of centre-halves pause for thought.
But while he does not hold blistering pace in his locker, he possesses a lengthy stride that will see him match the paciest of defenders in a foot race once top speed has been reached.
While his scoring exploits have captured the headlines, Simms’ all-around game remains a work in progress.
Raw would be the optimum word to describe him, though few centre-forwards are the finished article during their teenage years.
The finer arts of centre-forward play, such as when to start the press and the ability to create space for others through unselfish runs will come through repetition, solid coaching, and most importantly, time.
Reminds you of a young…?
A rare trait Simms possesses is the ability to shoot when the opposition least expects it.
Defenders will anticipate another step in the dribble, but Simms will try his luck early and powerfully, attempting to catch the unwitting goalkeeper unset.
This attribute has been perfected by Tottenham talisman Harry Kane, who will frequently score goals that leave you wondering why the goalkeeper didn’t do better.
Deception is a difficult art to master in football, but implementing an element of doubt in the opposition defence and goalkeeper’s minds over when the shot is coming is one surefire way to achieve it.
The facets of striker play beyond simply scoring goals undoubtedly require work. But the journey of Everton’s current centre-forward can provide Simms with the motivation that success is not always immediate.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin has been a mainstay in the Toffees line-up since 2017. But it has taken three years and over 100 appearances for all the pieces of the puzzle to come together.
Patience is the watchword in this particular case.
Simms’ ability to turn a seemingly benign situation into a goalscoring opportunity was showcased at an early age.
At just 17 years of age, the striker received a pass, spun his marker, and fired a snap shot into the top corner versus West Brom in an under-18s contest.
It is that decisiveness in and around the box and the single-minded focus on notching goals in bunches that will serve Simms well at the elite level for years to come.
The Experts’ View
The club’s under-23s coach – David Unsworth – could not be more suitably placed to judge Simms’ precocious talents.
The tenacious defender spent 11 years with his boyhood club across two spells and waxed lyrical about Simms’ performance in a Premier League 2 victory earlier this year.
He told the club’s official website: “I am not going to talk about Ellis’s goal, I am going to talk about his performance.
“He was absolutely superb. His hold-up play, his threat, his power and his link-up play were exceptional.”
The obvious elephant in the room surrounds why a first-team call-up has not yet arrived despite his incredible goal threat.
Offering an explanation (via the Liverpool Echo) in September, Unsworth hinted at the refinements Simms requires before cementing a place in the senior set-up.
“You’ve got to have that work rate. You’ve got to have that understanding of when to press and when to sit off and help your team. These are all the finer details we’re putting in Ellis.
“It’s what he needs to play in our first-team. You look how hard Dominic works for our first-team with his work-rate and unselfish runs to help the team, and with Ellis it’s a work in progress.
“He’ll get there but there’s so much more to come. I have no doubt that we’ll get there in the end.”
Ellis Simms’ hold-up play has come on so much in 12 months. Last year he was having double sessions at Finch Farm and it is paying off. Just won a free-kick when he had no team-mate within 10 yards of him by getting his body around the ball. Superb. #EFCU23s
— Sam Carroll (@SamCarroll0) November 27, 2020
A perfect fit for…?
Cenk Tosun is providing what can only be described as inadequate back-up to Calvert-Lewin. As such, Simms could soon find a home on the Toffees’ bench.
His integration into the first-team began towards the conclusion of last season. He was an unused substitute versus Sheffield United in July.
Additionally, he featured in both of the club’s pre-season friendlies, coming on to replace Calvert-Lewin each time.
He is a regular in first-team training sessions and was seen participating in James Rodriguez’ first session as a Toffee.
Don’t sleep on Ellis Simms tho 🤐🎯🔜
— Yannick Bolasie (@YannickBolasie) December 10, 2020
However, a potential January loan exit was mooted by the Liverpool Echo to achieve regular first-team football in the EFL.
Whichever step Simms’ blossoming career next takes, one thing is for sure – there will be goals, and lots of them.
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