Over five years on from being plucked from the modest surroundings of Bristol Rovers’ Memorial Stadium and catapulted into the nation’s gaze as a future Chelsea star, Scott Sinclair has finally found a home. At just 20 years of age, suggesting the winger’s arrival at a club offering the provision of first team football and a platform for stability is somehow overdue however seems wide of the mark. Sinclair, despite only making his England Under-21 debut in the defeat to Germany in Wehen Wiesbaden on Tuesday night, has a career to date that a perceived ‘journeyman’ would be proud of.
At twenty one years old, Sinclair’s professional football journey has already encompassed nine clubs, six of them on a loan agreement. Five of them saw Sinclair drop to the Championship in search of the experience and game time that was to inevitably elude him at Chelsea, where a star studded cast contested the midfield and forward roles Sinclair was looking to establish himself in. This season has seen the Bath born attacker settle at Swansea City under the tutelage of his former youth and reserve team boss Brendan Rodgers. For Sinclair, bereft beforehand of an established residence, somewhere to offer a continual stream of games and goals, it was difficult to judge what exactly the serial loanee could produce at Swansea. Had he matched his number of clubs to date with that a tally of goals for the season, that would have been labelled a success. Currently, Sinclair has scored 12 goals this season in league and cup competitions. Suffice to say he has settled in at the Liberty Stadium. Given the chance, he scores goals too, not that new Swansea manager Rogers will be taken aback by his recruit’s goalscoring exploits.
The former Watford and Reading manager Rodgers will have been monitoring Sinclair’s progress and transfer status closely and pinpointed the ex-Bristol Rovers youngster as a marquee signing to herald his arrival and to bolster the side after the departure of the popular Portuguese Paulo Sousa. Having narrowly missed out on the playoffs last term under Sousa, the Chelsea connection has rolled into town and seemingly provided the missing link between valiant failure and promotion success. Rodgers is in an enviable position, the benefactor of a close link with one of the Europe’s top sides enabling him to raid the Chelsea academy coffers. Any lower league side and some of Chelsea’s fellow Premier League competitors would cast covetous glances towards Rogers’ position.
Unsurprisingly, Rodgers has a history of tapping into Chelsea’s reserves of youth talent. While at Watford, he acquired Chelsea reserve team players Liam Bridcutt and Jack Cork (currently on loan at Burnley from parent club Chelsea) on short term loan deals. Upon his move to Reading as Steve Coppell’s successor in the summer of 2009, Chelsea full back Shaun Cummings joined him at the Madejski Stadium on a permanent deal. The marked increase in clubs delving into the large player pools of top flight clubs depicts an obvious search for talent at low cost to Championship clubs. As of this weekend, 21 Championship clubs share 42 loanees from Premier League sides among them. In a similar vein to the options available to Rodgers in South Wales, Preston’s Darren Ferguson is fortunate to be able to call upon his famous father for help. Ferguson senior, not one to envy seeing his son in a pickle has dispatched Joshua King, Matty James and Belgian international defender Richie De Laet already this season. Both managers have experienced the most conflicting of results.
The often derided figure of Marvin Emnes, a central figure in Middlesbrough’s relegation 18 months ago yet not so central in the scoring of goals he was brought to provide, remains Rodgers and Swansea’s sole loan signing of the season so far. Sinclair has been joined at Swansea City by another former charge of the manager in his time at Chelsea’s Cobham base, goalkeeper Yves Makabu-Makalambay, notable to add that both are permanent deals. The manager’s relationship with the players has now eliminated the need for the waters to be tested short term.
At Stamford Bridge this year, Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea squad has undergone a quiet and understated change, its emphasis subtly becoming more dependent on the fruits of its academy; a practice long glossed over in the pre and post Abramovich takeover years. Exemplified by the Chelsea bench in the recent defeat to a perennially erratic Sunderland team, Chelsea’s aging squad is being given a youthful injection from within. Ross Turnbull, Patrick Van Aanholt, Gael Kakuta, Josh McEachran, Jeffrey Bruma and Jacopo Sala joined Saloman Kalou on a substitutes bench that for years has never bore such a youthful look for a league match. Some injuries to key personnel did not help matters, but that does not disguise the sea change in approach at Chelsea. Gone are Ballack, Belletti, Deco, Carvalho, Cudicini and Joe Cole, replaced by stars of the future. This is another phase of the club’s desire to become self-sufficient, a breakaway from their oligarch owner’s lavish spending sprees of the past.
As academy players become more central to Chelsea’s present and future plans in London, in Wales second city Brendan Rodgers and Scott Sinclair continue to make waves in the upper reaches of the Championship. Should he require that injection of quality and youth as the season reaches its crucial climatic stages; Carlo Ancelotti will more than likely receive a call. After witnessing Scott Sinclair’s impact upon rejoining forces with his former mentor, Chelsea’s newly in-demand kids should relish the opportunity should it come to them.