'Not quite New York' - Josh Sims on life at Doncaster Rovers, his US experience and kicking off his career in earnest

“It’s not quite New York but I can live with it.”
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No one would claim the current loan move of Josh Sims could rival the glamour of his previous spell away from parent club Southampton.

But the flying winger is relishing life at Doncaster Rovers as he continues to put his promising career firmly back on track.

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Sims has made a big impression at Rovers with a series of explosive performances, three goals and four assists in just seven appearances for the club.

Josh Sims skips past AFC Wimbledon's Will Nightingale. Picture: Howard Roe/AHPIXJosh Sims skips past AFC Wimbledon's Will Nightingale. Picture: Howard Roe/AHPIX
Josh Sims skips past AFC Wimbledon's Will Nightingale. Picture: Howard Roe/AHPIX

The opportunity for regular football is a major plus for the hungry 23-year-old, who burst onto the scene at Southampton four years ago - laying on an assist for Charlie Austin inside his first minute on a senior pitch - and looked set to the latest bright talent to emerge from the Saints’ academy.

But a serious knee injury halted his progress while changes of manager at St Mary’s saw him struggle to make a sustained impression on his return.

A frustrating loan spell at Reading where he played under three managers in five months hardly helped his quest for stability but he opted for a loan switch to New York Red Bulls last summer which gave him the game time he desired.

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And his current spell with Rovers gives him the chance to show his quality in the relentless environment of League One.

Josh Sims in action for New York Red Bulls earlier this yearJosh Sims in action for New York Red Bulls earlier this year
Josh Sims in action for New York Red Bulls earlier this year

“I just need to get the excitement from playing regular football again,” Sims told the Free Press.

“I had it when I was younger and I broke through and played regular games. Then I got injured and couldn’t get in the team, and went out on loan.

“I just need to find myself back playing regular football and enjoying it again and see where that takes me.

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“I broke through and was really enjoying myself playing in the Premier League. The injury happened at a horrible time for me but that’s just football and life.

Josh Sims features for Southampton against Wolves in April last yearJosh Sims features for Southampton against Wolves in April last year
Josh Sims features for Southampton against Wolves in April last year

“You’ve got to just find a way to get through those tough times.

“Luckily for me the injury didn’t happen again like you see happening to a lot of players with knee injuries. I had good people around me.

“Now I just need to push on and build from those years and play regular football.”

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The enjoyment of the game was brought back to the fore during his loan to New York - and the lifestyle off the pitch did no harm towards that either as Sims got the opportunity to play tourist during his downtime.

“It’s another big thing, the lifestyle over there and how they live,” he said.

“It’s funny because they’re called New York Red Bulls but they’re based in New Jersey. It’s just the other side of the river, not too far from Manhattan.

“It was really good. I really enjoyed it. The place is incredible.

“It was the first time I’d been to New York.

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“It’s tough because when you’re playing you can't really do the things that you would do when you’re on holiday. You’d find on days off that you’d try to cram everything in.

“The boys would say ‘you need to do this and this and this’ but it's having the time to do it.

“I managed to get quite a few things done, I did everything people do so I was a bit of a tourist. After training I was doing all the things that people do. It was great, I enjoyed it.”

On field matters worked out just as well for the winger, as he made eight appearances for the Red Bulls last year and netted his first goal in senior football.

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It was enough to convince him to return to New York at the start of 2020 but he managed only two appearances before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and led to his decision to cut his loan short to head home.

“The Red Bull group, they are very attack-minded, pressing, similar to the manager back at Southampton who came from a Red Bull team,” Sims said.

“The big reason I went out there was to gain the experience in a similar team to what the manager of Southampton had.

“They’re very much on the front foot, attack minded, run at players, so it suited me.

“I learned a lot, to be more aggressive in my play.

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“I think I’ve shown glimpses of that here. Definitely that side of the game has improved for me.”

“I’ve always grown up being a winger. I’ve enjoyed watching players in my position and hopefully I can bring the excitement to the fans,

“Hopefully I can keep bringing that to the team and the fans will enjoy it.”

Sims’ loan with Rovers runs until January, while his contract at Southampton is set to expire in the summer, meaning the next few months are pivotal for his career.

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Early signs suggest he will have no shortage of suitors, at least at Championship level, as he plots the real start of his senior career.

And there will be the inevitable and justifiable clamour from Rovers fans to push to secure Sims’ services beyond January at the very least.

Wherever his future does lie, he just wants to be playing football on a regular basis.

“I’m at the stage of my career where I need to be playing regular football,” he said.

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“I had a taste of that when I first broke through at Southampton but various circumstances and injuries, I’ve not been able to carry on there.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time there, I broke through and did well but now I need to get regular football.”

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In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.