Exclusive: Ellis Simms discusses staying at Hearts with Everton talks key
and live on Freeview channel 276
There is no difficulty understanding why many Hearts supporters want to extend his stay at Tynecastle Park. Simms arrived on loan from Everton in January and is due to return to Merseyside at the end of the season. His contract there runs until 2024.
He is open to the prospect of a longer stint in Edinburgh should Everton decide he needs another loan next year. A permanent transfer would probably be beyond Hearts financially – even with several million pounds of extra European income – so an extended loan seems more realistic.
Simms’ pace, strength and ability to gallop into prime goalscoring positions make him a useful asset who will only improve as he develops further. At 21, his finishing could be more polished. The weekend proved he can be unstoppable when he gets it right.
Hearts fans have taken to the young forward, he is an automatic starter in manager Robbie Neilson’s team, and may even leave Scotland with a Scottish Cup winner’s medal next month. In an exclusive Evening News interview, Simms admitted he would be interested in a longer stay.
“It’s about the pathway for me. I would be open to it, definitely,” he said. “It’s out of my hands. I’m owned by Everton so it’s up to them where my next step is.
“I’ve enjoyed my time here, I’ve loved it. I’m here to play games and win matches. I will have to sit down with the Everton staff and my agent. It’s not entirely down to me, but so far I have enjoyed every minute here at Hearts.”
The four-month loan has already exceeded his and Everton’s expectations. Ten goals in 24 games on loan at Blackpool in England’s League One last season indicated Simms’ potential.
Sending him to Edinburgh was designed to provide a greater test at a higher level, allowing Hearts to benefit from a striker whose attributes are notably different to any other on their books. The deal is already one of the better pieces of business done at Tynecastle Park in recent years.
Simms has played his part in bringing European football back to Gorgie following a six-year absence. That may become a useful carrot for enticing him back north. An added bonus is that cup final place against Rangers on May 21. It is a good deal more than the player anticipated when he first arrived.
“Yeah, 100 per cent. I came here just to play games,” he acknowledged. “We had a good run in the cup and now we’re in the final it’s a bonus. Playing at Hampden Park, there’s a great atmosphere and a big pitch. It’s a good achievement to get to the final but we want to go all the way and win it.”
Even if he doesn’t return, there would be no better way to sign off than with a winner's medal dangling round your neck. “It would mean a lot. I’m a young player and I just want to win cups and trophies,” continued Simms.
“When you play football you want to win. It’s that winning mentality that you need. This is my second loan so it would be a nice achievement to win a cup here, but we still have league games to look forward to.
“We got third place but we don’t want to get complacent. We want to maximise our points total and then we have the cup final to come next month.”
Thanks, partly, to the aforementioned blooter past Hibs goalkeeper Matt Macey. Simms threatened to score several times during two previous outings against Hibs. Perhaps he was keeping a proper demonstration of his capabilities for the biggest Edinburgh derby of the season.
When Hibs defender Paul McGinn’s attempted clearance reached Barrie McKay on 16 minutes, Simms was off and running, pointing to where he wanted the ball played. McKay duly obliged and the striker lashed an unstoppable finish into the net from 22 yards.
“Baz picked up the ball and he slipped me in. I knew it was quite early on in the game so I just shot early,” recalled Simms. “I caught it sweet and when it hit the back of the net I was just delighted. It was a massive lift for the team and I was happy we were 1-0 up. We had to keep our heads and continue pressing Hibs after that.
“As a striker, you always want to score goals. I know I’ll always get chances with the likes of Baz and Liam Boyce playing beside me. Baz played a nice through ball and that’s why I managed to score, so that was great.”
He is now fully immersed in the Edinburgh football scene, too. Everton and Liverpool share their own brand of rivalry and the Hearts-Hibs variety is just as passionate.
“As soon as I came here, I knew there was a massive rivalry with the Hibs,” added Simms. “I’ve been lucky enough to play them three times now. The fans are great and we knew both sides would be up for it at the weekend in a cup semi-final.
“We played them the previous week and won so we didn’t want to become too complacent. We knew they would have a right go at us at Hampden. We had to dig in during the second half especially and in the end we got the win.”