Looking Back At: Tony Simmons

There was a post on social media early today, I forget where, asking which Lincoln City player scored the first goal you ever saw.

I can’t remember the first goal I saw. The first goal I remember seeing was a Steve Buckley penalty as we beat Swansea 4-0 in 1987, but I know the first goal I saw scored was by Tony Simmons as e lost 4-1 to Hartlepool one cold October afternoon. I know it was cold, because earlier that day Dad had a bonfire behind the house, and I burned myself on it. My punishment? A trip to watch Lincoln City. Anyway, that means I saw Tony Simmons’ opener, even though I can’t recall it. With that in mind, and no game to discuss in midweek, I thought I’d take a look back at the first Lincoln City goalscorer I ever saw.

Tony Simmons was born in Stocksbridge in 1965, and his professional career began at Sheffield Wednesday. He was a youth there, long before the days of an academy, but he progressed well,  captaining the YTS team. he was still only a youth when he made his debut at Hillsborough, in front of 40,000. That earned him England youth honours, where he was rewarded with 11 caps, keeping a young Tony Cottee on the bench.

In his final Imps appearance v Hereford

He made his debut for England against the USSR in  September 1982, scoring the only goal of the game. He appeared alongside David Kerslake and Brian Little in the next two fixtures, all in the space of one international period. He scored again days later as England beat Yugoslavia 1-0. He then scored four in two matches as the Youths beat Israel Under 21s, and Israel’s Olympic side. In the game against the latter, David Kerslake also hit a brace. He scored once more, against Belgium in 1983, in a 1-1 draw. Interestingly (depending on whether you’re a geek like me) the Belgium scorer that evening was Jean-Marc Bosman, who had a bit of an impact on world football a few years later. Simmons was sent off in a later 1-0 victory against Spain, which signalled the beginning of the end of his international experience. He made his final England youth appearance against Italy in May 1983.

When Jack Charlton left Hillsborough to manage Newcastle, Simmons was sold for £100,000. That figure, in today’s money, would be worth around £350,000, so it was no small fee. He joined Terry Venables at QPR, but quickly the manager moved on, and Simmons picked up an injury that kept him out of action. He had loan spells with Cardiff and Exeter before joining Rotherham for another decent fee without ever making an appearance for the Loftus Road side. He was leading scorer at Millmoor before joining the Imps in 1986 in a deal that saw John McGinley move the other way.

George Kerr, previously in charge at Rotherham, had brought Simmons to the Bank, but as with Charlton and Venables, the manager who brought him in soon left. Simmons joined on the eve of the home game against Preston, which City drew 1-1 to maintain the unbeaten start to the campaign.

It didn’t take the striker long to get off the mark; he netted away at Cardiff just ten days after joining (1-1) and added his second on September 20th as we lost 3-1 at home to Southend. On a foggy evening at the Bank on September 30th, he opened the scoring before Kevin Kilmore, another prolific former Rotherham man, added a second. On October 5th, with me in the Sincil Bank crowd for the first time, he scored his fourth in five matches.

By October 18th his exciting start was stunted, an injury forcing him to miss more than a month. When he returned, Gary Lund had begun scoring regularly, but Simmons still forced himself into contention, scoring as we beat Wolves 3-0. In just ten starts, he’d bagged five goals with the Imps hunting a play-off place. Sadly, he was injured again as we drew 0-0 with Notts County, and started just once more, a 0-0 draw with Hereford after George Kerr had departed. There was one more goal, the only strike of the game as we drew 1-1 with Chester in the Freight Rover Trophy, but with just one sub outing, he rarely got a chance. Injuries certainly put paid to his early promise, and he was released when Colin Murphy took over in the summer.

He signed for Gainsborough Trinity, and after a stint with Wildlife in the local Sunday League, he wound up at Holbeach United before moving to Lincoln United, where he became something of a club legend. His son, Alex, also played for the Imps, emerging from the academy and scoring twice in 28 matches, six of which were starts.

On his debut v Preston North end