Scott Sinclair’s first season at Celtic was nothing short of extraordinary.
He netted 40 goals in 84 matches for Scotland’s Champions, scoring six alone in his first month – equalling his total for the whole of his previous season with a relegated Aston Villa side.
No one can undermine his role in helping Celtic cement their status as ‘The Invincibles’, helping them win their first Champions League away game in five years, scoring the third and final goal against Anderlecht; beating Rangers 5-1, scoring the third goal and making it the biggest win at Ibrox since 1897; sealing the Treble for the fourth time in club history, and being well on their way to being the first ever Scottish team to win back to back Trebles.
The list is endless. But now fans and critics alike are claiming Sinclair is having a disastrous season simply for failing to reach the bar he set from himself last year.
Many cite the performances of teammate James Forrest as a yardstick for the 28 year-old’s decline, but when you look at the whole picture, people are being far too harsh on Sinclair.
Forrest has scored 12 goals this season playing on the left flank; however, Sinclair, the man on the other side, has managed three more as well as 12 assists.
The so-called ‘disastrous season’ is only being called disastrous because of the level people expect Sinclair to be playing at. His job is to press the game defensively, work up and down the line and score goals. Which is what he doing.
The standards of Sinclair, and Celtic in general, are so unprecedented that even when he scores that many goals and impacts the game as much as he has done people still claim it isn’t good enough. The slightest mishap can be exaggerated by rivals who are looking for any sign of frailty.
Sinclair is a player who is simply feeling the effects of playing 34 games in the first half of a season.
Having people scrutinise his every decision and kick of the ball will not be helping Sinclair’s confidence. Something he will now need to prove he has going fresh into the second half of the season.
It’s his ability to score goals at the rate of a centre-forward that has created a noose around his neck. What people seem to be forgetting is that the fact he can do that in itself is a tremendous thing. He’s virtually a striker playing in from the side.
He contributes goals as well as assists and creates chances, and his presence alone can strike fear in the hearts of the opposition. Well, in the Scottish Premiership at least anyway.
At 28 years old – the age most commonly thought of as being a player’s peak – Sinclair is so much more than a normal touchline winger. But perhaps one of the most incredible things about Sinclair is his ability to play anywhere across the front line, which means he can dovetail well with Moussa Dembele, Leigh Griffiths and Patrick Roberts.
Taking a look at how Sinclair performed in previous seasons at previous clubs, it is clear that this season so far is far from being disastrous. Sinclair didn’t score a single goal during the 2013/14 season at West Bromwich, and scored only three times the following one where he spent half the season at Manchester City and the other half at Aston Villa.
In the 2015/16 season, he scored a total of six goals with an Aston Villa side – as mentioned, something he managed to do in his first month at Celtic.
Yet, last season, the former Manchester City man claimed 25 goals. Continuing to score at the same rate as the first six months of the current campaign and he will comfortably exceed that, which only further challenges the narrative of a poor season.
Taking a look at this season, Sinclair has a pass rate of 83.6%, which is higher than most of his teammates, including the likes of Griffiths, sitting at 81.1%, Dembele at 62%, Roberts at 72.2%, and even Forrest, who people claim should take this year’s Player of Year, who has a rate of 80.4%.
So, if Sinclair is having a bad season, what does that mean for the rest of the Celtic team?
There’s a reason why Sinclair is a main man at the Scottish champions, and critics would do well to remember how much he has accomplished and his achievements to get to where he is today.
Instead of exaggerating his slightest mishaps looking for any sign of frailty by holding him to the impossible standards he set for himself and his team last year. He’s only human, time to give Scott Sinclair room to breathe.