Sunderland boss Tony Mowbray has revealed that he “feared the worst” when he first saw Ellis Simms pull up in Wednesday evening’s game against Reading.

The Everton loanee was forced off with a toe issue in the first half of the 3-0 win against the Royals, which meant the Black Cats were forced to play most of the Championship tie without a recognised striker.

He could yet return for today’s game against Watford at Vicarage Road but he is out then, with Ross Stewart also sidelined, Sunderland will be without a number nine once again.

Mowbray appears confident that the Simms will be back after the international break by the latest, which suggests the injury is not as bad as first feared.

Speaking to Chronicle Live, the Sunderland boss discussed the striker’s injury and revealed his reaction when he first pulled up.

He said: “When I first saw it, I feared the worst because I could see how disappointed he was – he was stamping his other foot on the ground and throwing his arms up in frustration, really, and then he sat down. It wasn’t a situation where he was running and it went, he just knew there was something wrong because he felt really uncomfortable.

“I could tell from his body language that something was wrong so we got the subs warmed up, Ellis was going to try give it a go but he sat down again a few minutes later, and so by that point had already prepared in my mind what we needed to do, and who could play upfront.”

Attacking midfielder Alex Pritchard was shifted into a false nine role once Simms limped off against Reading and looks the obvious option to play centrally if the striker does not start today.

The Verdict

Mowbray’s reaction will likely have been the same as the majority of Sunderland fans.

Many felt it was risky not to bring in more striker cover before the end of the transfer window and Stewart’s injury has proven those concerns were valid.

When Simms pulled up, it seemed as though the Black Cats may be in serious trouble and potentially facing a substantial spell without a number nine.

Sunderland’s performance in his absence against Reading will have inspired confidence in the fanbase while the fact that Simms could return today shows that the injury is not a bad one.

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