Sinclair takes hard road to international acclaim

Trevor Sinclair has journeyed long and hard to claim his place on England's World Cup adventure – and not just during the last month's flying visits to Dubai, Sogwipo, London, Awaji, Saitama, Osaka and now Niigata.

He set off on his personal road to Japan some 13 years ago in the inauspicious surroundings of Bloomfield Road. It was there, on 19 August 1989, he made his professional debut as a 16-year-old for Blackpool. It was not the greatest of games, the home side earning a solitary point from a 0-0 draw with Wigan in the old Third Division. But it was the start of an eventful career that has earned him an affectionate place in the club's collective memory.

So while Arsenal and Leeds fans will today laud their representatives who comprise England's defence, and Old Trafford and Anfield will hail their midfielders and attackers respectively, the pubs of Blackpool will join Upton Park in toasting their own town's contribution to the World Cup effort.

"I remember when he joined us, he always stood out as something special," said Mike Davies, who played alongside Sinclair in the early 1990s and is now Blackpool's reserve-team manager.

"He was very skilful, a terrific player, loads of pace, and a bubbly character. He lived near Bury and a few clubs showed a lot of interest in him but he chose to come to us because he had a better chance of first-team football."

Davies believes that it was Sinclair's debut at such a young age – and in tough circumstances, which saw Blackpool relegated at the end of Sinclair's debut season – that helped mould him into the player he is today.

"We all had friends in the game at other clubs who didn't make a first-team match until they were 20 or over, but at Blackpool you could be established a few years by that age.

"It was a big learning curve for Trevor but one that's helped him. He started on the wing for us, and then he moved up front and had success, scoring a lot of goals. When he moved on [to Queen's Park Rangers in 1993 and then West Ham in 1998] and went back to the wing, he had that extra experience, he knew how to get past people.

"He's really settled in that role now and playing some of his best football ever. I thought he was a different class against Argentina, and though people moan about the game with Nigeria it was a professional job, a good result and it can only help to have a more settled team."

While Sinclair was not any more boisterous than any other teenage professional, Davies remembers him as something of a tearaway.

"You have to be a bubbly character to make it, even at our level then, playing in front of 5,000 or 6,000 a week. You need to have a personality where you can handle things.

"But strangely enough, I think I only really realised quite how far Trevor had come when he was on his way home to England a few weeks ago after not making the squad. He was calm and professional, admitted that he hadn't performed well or taken his chance in the warm-up match but that he was ready if needed. I think that showed more than anything that the young lad we knew had matured a great deal."

So does a place beckon in the Blackpool alumni hall of fame that includes Matthews, Armfield and Mortenson?

"Well, I've watched England's games in the pubs with the fans," said Davies, "and they're proud to see the guy playing for England."

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