RED flags were raised when Scott Sinclair’s name was missing from Neil Lennon’s 18-player squad before the Champions League qualifier against Cluj in Romania on August 7.
The Celtic manager admitted there had been interest from English clubs just before their transfer deadline the following day which went in part to explain the non-appearance of the experienced European campaigner.
No-one, though, queried the absence of Sinclair when he was not in the champions’ squad for the Premiership encounter at Hamilton on Saturday – the SEVENTH successive game in which he had failed to be included in the matchday pool of players.
The man who arrived in a £4.5million deal from Aston Villa in August 2016 and scored the winner against Hearts at Tynecastle to get the ball rolling on the club’s sixth successive title appears to have been puzzlingly removed from the Parkhead radar.
RARE SIGHTING…Scott Sinclair in his only start for Celtic this season – the friendly against Rennes in July.
Sinclair claimed 61 goals on the triumphant march to nine domestic honours in succession for the unprecedented treble treble.
The club activated the last 12 months of his four-year contract that is said to be worth in the region of £30,000-per-week.
Possibly, there may have been an anticipated move back to England for the former Chelsea, Swansea City, Manchester City and Villa attacker.
Newly-promoted Sheffield United were linked with a £2million swoop that never materialised and Championship sides Derby County and Middlesbrough were mentioned. However, the August 8 window for England’s two top-tier divisions came and went with Sinclair still at the champions. In the later deadline for other English sides, League One Sunderland were reported to be interested, but, once again, the player remained in Glasgow.
Surely no-one can believe he is over the hill at the age of 30. Skipper Scott Brown was 33 when he agreed a two-year extension at the tail end of last season.
Sinclair has played only 66 MINUTES of this campaign which is rather bewildering. His only start came in July’s friendly goalless draw against tomorrow night’s Europa League opponents Rennes.
CLOSE-UP VIEW…Scott Sinclair watches as Odsonne Edouard clips in the Scottish Cup Final winner against Hearts keeper Bobby Zamal.
HOOP HOOP HOORAY…Sinclair and Edouard celebrate as the histroric treble treble beckons.
One of his last meaningful outings for the first team came in the Scottish Cup Final against Hearts on May 25 when he replaced Mikey Johnston in the 71st minute with the score deadlocked at 1-1.
History beckoned, but Celtic were toiling against a workmanlike Edinburgh outfit. There can be no argument the substitute added pep and zest to the team’s display at Hampden that afternoon.
When Odsonne Edouard raced through with eight minutes remaining, who was thundering alongside him to provide an option for the Frenchman and also to distract the back-tracking defenders? Sinclair.
So, going into a new campaign with sights on the coveted nine in a row, it would have been reasonable to expect the Englishman to play a key role, as he had done over the previous three years of unparalleled domestic dominance from the Hoops.
Sinclair hit the ground running in his first months in a new environment and, although Moussa Dembele claimed the headlines with a superb hat-trick against Mark Warburton’s devastated Ibrox side in the 5-1 triumph, Sinclair and Stuart Armstrong also added goals in a memorable romp.
And who scored the winner in the Hogmanay clash in Govan later that season? It was Sinclair at the backpost to pounce on a low cross from Patrick Roberts.
No-one can live on their reputation in sport. Time takes no prisoners as it ruthlessly marches on and boss Lennon has options on the flank with the likes of Johnston, Lewis Morgan, Marian Shved and Jonny Hayes around.
However, the demise of Scott Sinclair could see him take the Dedryck Boyata route out of the club. He can sign a pre-contract in January and leave for free at the end of the season.
It would be a sad and sorry farewell for a performer who played his role in making marvellous history at Celtic.
Questions will be asked, but the mystery of the disappearance of Scott Sinclair may never be explained.
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