x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Scott Sinclair's nomadic journey back to the top

But the Englishman is finding chances at Manchester City limited, writes Richard Jolly.

Scott Sinclair, right, has made two appearances for Manchester City since joining in August. Adrian Dennis / AFP
Scott Sinclair, right, has made two appearances for Manchester City since joining in August. Adrian Dennis / AFP

He is the Englishman who made his name in Wales, the 23 year old who has had 10 different clubs but only featured regularly for one of them, the new signing who seems to have been swiftly forgotten.

Scott Sinclair can seem a mass of contradictions.

He is a player whose potential has seen him join two elite clubs but a footballer in need of the sort of opportunity less gifted individuals get every week: a place in the team.

He is the millionaire with a celebrity girlfriend, the actress Helen Flanagan, but a greater grounding in life's vicissitudes than many of his peers.

His older brother, Martin, was born with cerebral palsy and served as an inspiration for his younger sibling.

"I think Martin's been amazing," Scott said in 2011. "All the things he's been through, he just keeps going and fighting back. His mental strength is unbelievable. It makes you appreciate more things."

Martin's disability also enabled the Sinclairs to make history. They became the first brothers to represent Great Britain at a Paralympic and an Olympic Games in the same summer.

Martin, playing in the 7-a-side football for cerebral palsy sufferers, was eliminated in the group stages. Scott went further, reaching the quarter-finals with Stuart Pearce's side and scoring against the UAE en route.

While mother Sally is a teacher and father Martin senior a carpet fitter, theirs is a footballing family.

The youngest brother, Jake, is in Southampton's academy and was on the bench for their Capital One Cup defeat to Leeds United.

Scott's talent was evident an early age. Born in Bath, he grew up - in a detail he may prefer not to mention now he is at Manchester City - a Manchester United fan, but he was signed by a local club.

On the books of Bristol Rovers from the age of nine, he became their second youngest player when, at 15 years and 277 days, he came off the bench against Leyton Orient in 2004.

Sinclair's precocity made others take note. The following summer Chelsea signed him for and initial £200,000 (Dh1.16 million), but a deal with add-ons and a sell-on clause that eventually benefited Rovers.

At Stamford Bridge, Arjen Robben was an inspiration but also a reason why his opportunities were limited.

Five years at Chelsea brought just 14 appearances and a solitary league start.

"I had a lack of chances at Chelsea and there were different managers coming in every other year," he said. "It's very difficult when you are 18 or 19 to be up and coming and play week in, week out for Chelsea."

Instead, he became one of football's nomads.

"I went out on loan loads of times. I played for a lot of different clubs - Plymouth, QPR, Charlton, Crystal Palace, Birmingham and Wigan - and I learnt a lot during that time," he said. "I played under some great managers, experienced different styles of play and tactics so I believe it was beneficial for my development."

Yet regular football eluded Sinclair until the eternal wanderer was rescued by a man he met at Stamford Bridge.

Appointed the Swansea City manager in 2010, Brendan Rodgers returned to his former club to pay £500,000 for Sinclair.

"He was a massive influence on my career," Sinclair said. "He changed my position at Chelsea by putting me on the wing when I went to Swansea and I really found my feet."

He also found the goal with remarkable frequency from the flanks.

His debut year at the Liberty Stadium brought 27 goals, the last three of them a play-off final hat-trick against Reading to seal Swansea's promotion to the Premier League. It made them the first Welsh club to appear in England's top flight for 28 years.

Sinclair was a reason, too, why they stayed in it. He struck eight times, aided by his prowess from the penalty spot. Indeed, he had a 100 per cent record from 12 yards until a future teammate, Joe Hart, saved a spot kick in March.

Nonetheless, Manchester City were impressed. As Sinclair, with one year left on his Swansea contract, refused to sign a new deal, the Premier League champions stepped in. A fee of £6.2m took him to Etihad Stadium in August and Sinclair said: "It was always in my mind I would be back to play at a top club like City again."

He debuted soon after, against Stoke City. But his second league start, against Arsenal, is also his last to date.

When City faced Swansea, three midfielders were injured and a fourth, James Milner was suspended. Rather than enjoying the reunion, Sinclair nevertheless remained an unused substitute. He has made a solitary, two-minute appearance since September 25.

Having made the journey back to the top, Sinclair now has to show his manager he belongs there.

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