Its Saturday…April 29th, 2017 to be exact, and I’m in front of the TV watching highlights from the Scottish Premier League. Personally, I find it fascinating that a lot of people think that it doesn’t match up to the other major leagues in Europe. The quality on show, from the highlights, is really impressive.
However, by watching the highlights, I was actually looking for clips of the famous Old Firm Derby between Celtic and Glasgow Rangers (even though this fixture is becoming less and less of a contest). Game was played at Ibrox right after Celtic have been confirmed as league champions (for the millionth time in a row). So I expected a tight game, with Rangers looking to spoil the party…and a probable invincible season for Celtic. Imagine my shock (or amusement) when I read they got thrashed 5-1!
When Patrick Roberts (of Celtic) is fouled in the box, a familiar face steps up to take the resulting penalty. He looks really confident and calm. Like many times this season, he dispatches the spot kick with ease and is off to celebrate the first of five goals for Celtic. I smile a bit as I realized that this young man deserved every bit of his success story this season, despite how tough it’s been for him in the last few years. His name? Scott Sinclair.
Ten years ago, The Daily Mirror (in the UK) published a list of young English players who would most likely make the 2014 World Cup England Squad. Sinclair was one of the big names on the list, along with Micah Richards and Theo Walcott (who was the closet to making the squad but for injury). Well, it’s safe to say that The Mirror must have spoken too soon, because NO player on the list made that squad. However, ten years ago, Sinclair looked like England’s next big thing…as he was a Chelsea player (and I mean a player in the 1st team).
After a handful of appearances and lots of loan moves, Sinclair settled in south Wales, playing for Swansea. Right there, he started to realize his potential and became an amazing winger. A perfect combination of speed and skill, he was a key part of Swansea’s promotion to the EPL (which was historic in itself). Once they got there, Sinclair proved himself at that level, playing a key role as they maintained their status as a bona fide premier league team. I loved watching him play…he had talent and drive. I almost wished he joined Arsenal, but he joined Manchester City instead…then his career crashed…really fast.
After three years on the City bench, plus a fruitless time on loan at West Brom, I feared Sinclair was going to end up like David Bentley. Every time I saw him play (in that time), he looked bereft of confidence and while the talent was still there, he wasn’t the same player I saw at Swansea.
A loan move to Aston Villa helped to reinvigorate his career, culminating in the FA Cup final against Arsenal (even though that didn’t go well). I think Tim Sherwood deserves some credit for getting the guy back on his feet after such a torrid time at City.
The biggest credit, however, should go to the man who took a big chance on him by finally paying a transfer fee to take him away from City (very few coaches would have taken him for free, let alone 3 million pounds). Brendan Rodgers has been a fan of Sinclair, having worked with him at Chelsea and Swansea but it still looked a gamble when he signed the winger to a team with Celtic’s lofty ambitions.
Much has been made of Moussa Dembele’s impact, given that Rodgers managed to convince him that Celtic (not PSG, Monaco, Tottenham, or Arsenal) was the best place for his development. However, I think Sinclair has been the best transfer Celtic made in the summer of 2016. From his winner against Hearts (on his debut) to the opening goal against Rangers on Saturday, it’s been a 25-goal affair with Sinclair. Add the two trophies already won, plus the Player of the Year awards he’s picked up as well, and you have the miraculous turnaround of a man who many thought wasn’t even good enough for West Brom!
So cheers to Scott Sinclair, the living example of a player whose talent was always going to get him through the challenges (even though it took him so long). Sometimes, if the talent is right and the person is honest in his attitude, all he needs is for someone to believe in him. Thanks Brendan.