April 19, 2024

When Josh Sims sprinted the length of the pitch to assist Southampton to Wembley in 2017, it was widely considered to be the beginning of a brilliant career, rather than the peak.

That game was the second leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final, and the Saints went into Anfield with a small 1-0 advantage thanks to a Nathan Redmond goal in the first.

With Virgil Van Dijk out due to injury, Jack Stephens stepped in to partner Maya Yoshida in defence. Liverpool possessed the majority of the ball, as expected, with 72% possession, a ratio Southampton fans have grown accustomed to seeing from their side under Russell Martin this season, but they only managed three efforts on goal thanks to Claude Puel’s tenacious defending.

In the 81st minute, Puel went to his bench and brought on Sims, who was 19 years old. Ten minutes later, in the 91st minute, Southampton cleared a corner to Sims on the edge of their own box. The turbo-charged teenager ran the length of the Anfield pitch before passing to Shane Long, who sealed a Wembley final against Manchester United.

What happened to Josh Sims?

Southampton eventually lost 3-2 to United in the final, as Manolo Gabbiadini was wrongfully denied a hat-trick; his third goal was obviously onside, but it was ruled out before VAR.
For Sims, however, the semi-final assist would mark the beginning of a turbulent few years. Sims sustained a knee injury shortly after that spectacular assist, which sidelined him for nine months and made it difficult for him to re-enter the Southampton team, with a high manager turnover compounding his problems.

Sims has three loan spells with Reading, New York Red Bulls, and Doncaster Rovers before being released by Southampton at the end of the 2020/21 season.

After a promising start on loan at Doncaster, Sims suffered a hamstring injury, forcing him to return to his parent club for treatment, which is where the problems began.

Sims, reminiscing on the period to The Athletic in a story dated November 2021, claimed that: “At the start of January, my hamstring had completely healed and I was fit enough to return to Doncaster. I had signed all of the papers and then received a call from the doctor in Southampton. I believed they were calling to send me on my way, but they informed me that I had tested positive (for Covid-19). I experienced no symptoms, but back then, you had to self-isolate for two weeks.

“During the two weeks, I had no symptoms. I suspected it was a false positive. I returned to Doncaster after a few weeks, but I never felt the same.

Despite the lack of symptoms at the time, Sims felt tired, and after suffering a glute injury, a loss of appetite, and weight loss, he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Current Southampton midfielder Flynn Downes has also struggled with gastrointestinal troubles this season which have seen him miss games on more than one occasion.

However, the medication Sims took to treat his bowel difficulties triggered myocarditis – a heart condition – which resulted in months of the winger being unable to leave his bed, let alone consider returning to a football pitch.

Despite his heart troubles and being out of the game since May 2021, Sims has recovered well and in February 2022 was able to restart his professional football career, albeit while taking medicine for his myocarditis.

Ross County handed Sims a return to football

New York Red Bulls news: Josh Sims is back on loan

Ross County, a Scottish Premier League club, took a risk on Sims, who is now 26 years old, and secured his return to the game.

He is still at the club, having appeared 56 times since his comeback, scoring four goals and providing one assist across all competitions.

While it may not be the dizzying heights of giving an assist on the way to a Wembley final, Sims’ return to Scotland’s top division after an immensely difficult few years in which he felt he would never play football again is a great accomplishment in and of itself.

County is struggling this season, sitting in the relegation play-off spot. They are only one point below St Johnstone and will look to leapfrog their relegation opponents to secure another season in the SPL.

Sims, who has started seven league games this season but has been substituted 14 times, will want to play a larger role in his club’s bid for survival between now and the conclusion of the season.

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