He was once regarded as one of the brightest prospects at Stamford Bridge, but Scott Sinclair’s Chelsea career ended Monday when he joined Swansea City on a three-year deal.
The Blues will receive £500,000 immediately (although 15% of that will go to Bristol Rovers), with performance-related bonuses potentially taking the deal up to £1m. The money arriving up front probably represents the amount paid out for Scott in transfer fees since signing him five years ago from Bristol Rovers.
Back then, of course, he had made his football league debut as a fresh-faced schoolboy, before heading to West London for £200,000, with similar additional fees to be paid if he progressed through the club’s ranks.
A spectacular debut youth season followed, as the pacy frontman scored 15 times in 22 appearances and progressed into the reserve ranks. He continued to impress and a year later had made a first team debut against Wycombe Wanderers in the Carling Cup.
His fledgling Chelsea career would, however, be interrupted by the first of a number of loan spells which would set about a spell of stagnation, one which still exists today.
Scott joined up with Plymouth Argyle, and was exceptional during his stay at Home Park, scoring 4 goals in 18 appearances, including a goal of the season contender away to Barnet in the FA Cup.
At this stage, things were still upwardly mobile, and his return from loan saw an appearance away at Arsenal as Jose Mourinho’s boys relinquished their hold on the Barclays Premier League title. The Portuguese manager had high hopes for his young prospect and, accordingly, included him in his first team squad for the following campaign, handing him the number 17 shirt.
He played occasionally, most notably in the Carling Cup against Leicester, where he impressed, but in a squad full of international class footballers, the 18 year-old found it hard to break into the team on a regular basis.
That meant another loan spell, but instead of the success at Plymouth, problems were about to arise. His time at Queens Park Ranges was unremarkable and with a lack of playing time ensuing, Chelsea sought alternative arrangements. Unfortunately, the same thing happened at both Charlton Athletic and Crystal Palace.
He scored twice for Palace, showing signs of life, but at a crucial juncture of his career, things had gone badly, and caused a hiccup in his development. It didn’t get much better in 2008/09 when more reserve team football was followed by a tame spell at Birmingham City.
Things looked liked they might get back on track last year when a top flight loan move was announced – his sixth such deal, for those keeping count. Yet, predictably, Wigan struggled to make room for him, and he made just twenty appearances, with the vast majority of those as a substitute inside the last ten minutes.
Which brings us to this summer. Despite the new home-grown regulations, Carlo Ancelotti has hardly mentioned Scott’s name, and a lack of real pre-season involvement wasn’t particularly encouraging. As former Blue Brendan Rodgers took over at Swansea, he was linked with a number of Chelsea names, as usual, and Scott was one of them.
He heads there trying to rejuvenate a career which still promises much, but needs some direction and needs it soon. As long as he has his devastating pace, he can be a threat, but the rest of his game needs to catch up. One of the key problems with his game is a lack of alternatives to beating a man if the first option (pace) isn’t there, but it’s easy to forget that he’s only 21, and still learning.
Chelsea may have taken the easy way out and cashed in on a player they can’t afford the time to develop further – he wouldn’t have needed to be registered to be involved in the squad this season, for example.
But there’s also the player to consider. Perhaps Sinclair didn’t want to have an uncertain future and wanted a change of scenery. It’s all very well being tied to one of the biggest clubs in the country but footballers typically want to play, and want to be happy.
Hopefully this move is a positive for him. Rodgers nurtured him well at Stamford Bridge, and was undeniably a positive effect on his career. Here’s hoping that continues – all the best Scott.
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