There is an overwhelming sense of déjà vu about Scott Sinclair’s current situation. After two years of settled first team football at Swansea, the winger is again at a big club on the outside looking in, better paid but just as uninvolved.
Being a part of the nouveau riche’s pet projects seems to hold an irresistible appeal for Sinclair. First with Chelsea and now Manchester City, he has spurned regular appearances at a lesser side in favour of the prestige of acting as a perennial backup to the elite.
Back in 2005 he was persuaded to leave the Bristol Rovers academy by Frank Arnesen. Despite Chelsea’s ardent interest in Sinclair, the teenager spent the intervening seasons anywhere but Stamford Bridge.
As a man permanently for hire, he had loan spells at Plymouth, QPR, Birmingham and Wigan amongst others. Being shunted around the country like this in search of game time did nothing for Sinclair’s development, and he stagnated when he should have been making his breakthrough.
However, the rootless wastrel is an unfortunate phenomenon in modern football, of which Sinclair, alongside ostensible teammates Michael Mancienne and Ryan Bertrand, is a prime example. With the big clubs intent on stockpiling young playing talent in the hope that one or two make the grade, a great surplus is inevitably cast aside.
Sinclair was rescued from the scrapheap by Swansea. Brendan Rodgers, a coach of his at youth level, brought some much-needed stability to the life of the suitcase kid, taking him to the Liberty Stadium for £500,000.
He finally felt valued, and the payback was evident, Sinclair spearheaded Swansea's promotion push as the club’s star man and leading scorer. The goals came steadily in the top flight too, as Swansea eased towards survival, and Sinclair’s impressive performances earned him a call-up to the Olympic squad.
Over the summer, speculation mounted that the 23 year-old was set to leave. No longer content with being one of the best at a mid-ranking club on the rise, a move to reigning Premier League champions Man City was forced through on deadline day.
The decision was a baffling one on behalf of both club and player. Sinclair wasn’t even an improvement over the departing Adam Johnson, never mind Samir Nasri or David Silva. It was a needless indulgence on the part of City and a death sentence for Sinclair’s attempt to rebuild his career.
Yet one clear advantage came from the Sinclair and Jack Rodwell signings, and this one was their status as home-grown players. Despite being expensive acquisitions, having come through English academies, they significantly counted towards City’s 8 man domestic quota for Premier League and European participation.
Although the rule is an earnest attempt to curb big spending and increase the emphasis on local players, it has, in many ways, achieved the opposite. Besides enabling the laziness of Ross Turnbull et al, its introduction has seen the cost of English players reach a record high and encouraged clubs to bring ever-younger overseas talent into their youth systems for the purposes of repatriation.
Perhaps we should have sympathy for someone like Scott Sinclair, inadvertently caught up in the regulations as he is. But having been burnt once by Chelsea, he should know better.
Unsurprisingly, he has made just nine appearances since his move and, if anything, deserves to be sidelined for such willful stupidity.
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