Kevin McCluskie with A Celtic State of Mind – Scotty Sinclair: Beautiful… Magical

He arrived with a bang in August 2016, scoring a late winner on his debut away to Hearts at Tynecastle.  Now, three-and-a-half trophy-laden seasons later, Scott Sinclair has become the latest Invincible to depart Celtic Park, as he completed a transfer to English Championship side Preston North End.

Hotly tipped as a youngster, Sinclair began his career with League Two side Bristol Rovers before soon making the transition to big-spending Chelsea in 2005 where he would work with Brendan Rodgers for the first time.

During his five seasons at Stamford Bridge, Sinclair failed to make much of an impression on the first-team, making just five league appearances for the club. As with a host of youth prospects bought by Chelsea in recent seasons, Sinclair spent most of his time as a Chelsea player being farmed out on loan to a host of Championship clubs.

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While he may not have made the grade at Chelsea, his loan performances had caught the eye of his former coach at Chelsea, Brendan Rodgers, who was suitably enough impressed to splash out £500,000 as he made Sinclair one of his first signings as boss of Swansea.

Sinclair excelled under Rodgers’ tutelage and played a vital role in Swansea’s promotion to the Premiership in his first year at the club; scoring 19 League goals along with a hat-trick in the Play-Off final win over Reading.

After a second impressive season with Swansea, Sinclair made a history repeating itself-style move in 2012 when he transferred to Manchester City, a club whose big-spending was dwarfing even that of Chelsea. Older, wiser, and a more influential player than the one who joined Chelsea as a 16-year-old back in 2005, Sinclair’s move to City was expected to propel him on to the international scene with England.

However, with the likes of Aguero, Tevez, Dzeko, and David Silva to contend with, Sinclair once again found game time hard to come by at one of England’s nouveau riche clubs and had to go in seek of loan moves in order to get playing time and stop his once-promising career from stagnating.

Midlands rivals West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa were next up for Sinclair where, despite suffering relegation from the Premiership with the latter, he began to rediscover the form of the Swansea days.

It was fitting then that in the summer of 2016 Scott Sinclair would make the move north-of-the-border and to Paradise where he was reunited with his former Chelsea and Swansea mentor, Brendan Rodgers.

After a typically long and drawn out transfer saga lasting the entire summer, Sinclair was finally paraded as a Celtic player the day before the 2016/17 season League season was due to kick-off.  Making his debut the very next day, Sinclair announced his arrival in style, slotting home a late winner in front of the travelling Celtic support at a packed and hostile Tynecastle.

From that moment on, Sinclair enjoyed a truly remarkable maiden season in Scottish football as he endeared himself to the Celtic faithful with some scintillating performances, terrorising defences with his pace and skill, and often putting them to the sword with his trademark curling goals as he cut in off the left flank. He became the first Celt since Jimmy McGrory to score in his first five league games for the club and, on the 27 May 2017, Scott Sinclair became an Invincible Treble winner as he helped Celtic to overcome Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup final. That success followed the League Cup, also won against Aberdeen, and the League title. All achieved without losing a single domestic game.

On a personal level, Sinclair claimed four Player of the Year awards in 2016/17; from the Celtic Supporters, Celtic Players, Players’ Player, and Scottish Football Writers. To say that Sinclair made an impact during his first season would be an understatement.

He continued his fine form into his second season in the Hoops, contributing 18 goals and 16 assists both domestically and in Europe as he finished a second successive treble-winning season as the club’s top scorer.

However, despite ending the 2018/19 campaign with a respectable return of 17 goals and 7 assists, there was a growing feeling that Sinclair and Celtic were beginning to grow apart, especially after the departure of Rodgers and re-hiring of Neil Lennon as manager.

As the season progressed, Sinclair’s influence of the team and on results began to wane. His trademark faint on to his right foot had been sussed out and with low confidence and diminishing returns on the pitch, Sinclair began to be pushed more and more to the sidelines. As Celtic lined up to make history, again, in the Scottish Cup final on the 25 May 2019, Scott Sinclair found himself benched – his place in the side taken by young winger Mikey Johnston. Sinclair would get the final 18 minutes that day, he would play his part in securing the Treble Treble and, with hindsight, should have been allowed to leave in the aftermath of the final with a ninth successive winners’ medal in Scottish football.

Instead, with his place in the first-team now in doubt, Celtic opted to take up a one-year extension on his contract for season 2019/20. With his departure now confirmed, Sinclair featured just seven times this season and watched as Johnston, Lewis Morgan, and others were selected ahead of him.

It’s a sad way to say goodbye to a player who dazzled the crowd and enjoyed as much success with the club as Scott Sinclair did.

He came in with a bang, he leaves with barley a fizzle, but the memories will long be cherished for…

“He is Scotty Sinclair and he is so wonderful, when he scores a goal oh it is beautiful, it is magical.”

Kevin McCluskie

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