Scott Sinclair is only 21, but you could be forgiven for thinking he was a hardened veteran. The flying winger, who has represented England at Under-17, Under-18, Under-19 and Under-20 level, made his League debut six years ago and has already played for nine different clubs.
It was at Bristol Rovers, where he played from the age of nine, that Bath-born Sinclair's talent quickly became evident. Chelsea signed him in 2005, after he had made just two appearances for Rovers. A tribunal eventually ordered Chelsea to pay Rovers compensation of up to £750,000.
In five years at Stamford Bridge Sinclair made a grand total of five Premier League appearances. He went on loan, first to Plymouth Argyle, where he scored a wonder goal after a run from his own penalty area that became a YouTube favourite, and soon became a football nomad, pitching his tent at Queen's Park Rangers, Charlton, Crystal Palace, Birmingham and Wigan. By the end of his sixth season he had made just 72 League appearances, 40 of them as a substitute.
There were clubs keen to sign him, but Sinclair had a long contract and it was only this summer that he decided it was time to move on. Some eyebrows might have been raised when the winger signed for Swansea City, who paid an initial £500,000 that could rise to a club record £1m, but the key to Sinclair's switch was his new manager.
Brendan Rodgers, who moved to the Liberty Stadium in the summer after failing to last more than six months at either Watford or Reading, was youth team and reserve team manager at Chelsea in Sinclair's first three years there. Not only did he have a rapport with Sinclair but he also convinced him that Swansea's style of play would bring the best out of him. Playing a lone striker, Rodgers encourages Sinclair to push forward, deep into the opponents' half.
How right Rodgers was. Sinclair has been a key performer in Swansea's surge to third place in the Champion-ship, scoring seven goals in 11 League appearances and adding four more in the Carling Cup. Crucially, he has finally found a club where his first-team future looks assured: before October was out he had already started more League matches than at any of his previous clubs.
"Maybe at 21 he needed to find a home," Rodgers said. "He'd had a number of opportunities to go to other clubs but I spoke to him over the summer and convinced him that this was a club, because of the style that we play, that would really benefit him. If he was playing in a 4-4-2 at another club he would be 25 metres behind where he starts now. I just felt that he could come to Swansea and concentrate on his football for two or three years at a club and with a manager who knows him inside out. So far it's been the perfect fit for him."
On Saturday at Crystal Palace Sinclair was anonymous at times, but he scored the crucial early opening goal in an emphatic 3-0 victory, ghosting in at the far post to convert a cross from the opposite flank.
"Even if he has quiet games where he doesn't have a lot of the ball he always arrives in the areas to score goals," Rodgers said. "When you're a manager or coach you tell your players that when the ball comes in from the opposite side, make sure your winger or wide player is in there on the back post."
While Sinclair has been the headline act, plenty of others have contributed to Swansea's fine start to the season. Rodgers has added Neil Taylor, a Welsh international signed from Wrexham, to his options in defence and Swansea have again looked rock-solid at the back.
Only Newcastle let in fewer goals in the Championship last season and only Queen's Park Rangers have a better defensive record this time. Swansea go to Cardiff, the Championship leaders, next Sunday having not conceded a goal in more than seven and a half hours of play. With Cardiff's Jay Bothroyd suspended, Sinclair might even finish the day on top of the division's goalscoring charts. Some achievement for a player who had scored just 10 goals in his first six seasons in the game.Reuse content