Graham Ruthven: Inconsistent Sinclair remains a frustration for Celtic fans

Celtic winger Scott Sinclair was once tipped for the top of the game, but his hot and cold performances make him a bit of a mystery for supporters…

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It didn’t seem likely that a Scottish Cup fourth round match at home to League One Airdrieonians would say much about the career of Scott Sinclair, but that’s how it panned out.

Indeed, this game provided a stark illustration of where the winger is right now and of why he has been such a figure of frustration for the teams he has played for over the years.

Sinclair bagged a brace, easing Celtic’s passage through to the next round of the cup, but he also had a penalty saved and missed a sitter from a matter of yards out.

This summed up the 29-year-old’s Celtic career to date. For every moment of brilliance, there has been a moment of exasperation.

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It wasn’t this way in his first season in Scotland. Sinclair was revelation early on at Celtic, scoring 25 times over the 2016/17 campaign before being named the PFS Scotland Player of the Year.

Since then, though, Sinclair has allowed inconsistency to creep into his game, to the point where he fell out of favour of Brendan Rodgers’ team earlier this season.

This has been a pattern throughout Sinclair’s career. Swansea City is probably where he was at his most consistent, earning himself an £8 million move to Manchester City after helping to establish the Swans as a Premier League outfit, but the Liberty Stadium faithful still saw the dips in the winger’s game.

At City, Sinclair was out of his depth, only making 13 appearances in total for the then Premier League champions.

He became a symbol of City’s complacency in their position at the top of the English game, but it wasn’t really his fault that there was no place for him at the Etihad Stadium. That was on Man City.

The inconsistency returned upon the subsequent move to Aston Villa, though. It was here where Sinclair’s career got stuck in the relentless cycle it has still to escape.

There were moments of brilliance, particularly early on during his time at the club when he declared that he was “the happiest [he’d] been in a long time.”

And yet just over a year after Aston Villa signed Sinclair from Man City, they allowed him to leave for Celtic. A player who should have been a star at Premier League level, a player who was signed by the champions of England, was just a few years later deemed surplus to requirements by a team in the Championship.

Sinclair has enjoyed a career renaissance of some measure at Celtic, but his time there has still, on the whole, been something of a disappointment.

His signing was a marquee one for the Hoops, made at a time when they were in need of some star quality following the Ronny Deila days, when the Glasgow club scrimped in the transfer window. Now, some Celtic fans believe their team is better off with Sinclair on the bench, especially now that Oliver Burke has signed on loan until the end of the season.

At 29, time is running out for Sinclair if he is to truly fulfil the potential he demonstrated earlier in his career.

It’s often forgotten just how much hype there was around Sinclair as an academy graduate at Chelsea.

Had he not suffered a metatarsal injury in his first start for the Blues, in a game against Manchester United, the winger may well have made the breakthrough at Stamford Bridge.

In hindsight, Sinclair should have been smarter than to move to Man City when he did.

He was ready to make the step up from Swansea, but a jump to the Premier League champions was just too big.

His career has never really recovered from that misstep, even if he has found some form at Celtic over the past few years.

Maybe it’s just time we accepted that moans, groans and the general sound of frustration are just part of the package when it comes to Sinclair.

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