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One that got away: Scott Sinclair

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Scott Sinclair joined the Chelsea academy in 2005 at the age of 15, having already made his first team debut for League Two side Bristol Rovers. He left the club this past summer, and has since gone on to flourish at Swansea City. Right now he's scored 17 goals in his 35 games for the club, leading their push towards promotion to the Premier League. He's also been very good for the England U21's, and scored again yesterday off of a rebound. Sinclair turns 22 today and plays primarily as a right winger. His transfer fee was set at 500,000 pounds, and could rise as high as 1 million depending on his starts (which seems a given at this point).

As most of you know, Chelsea lack a single player in the first team who's primary position would be the right wing. We also don't have an attacking midfielder who's ideal position is on the right flank. So how is it that Chelsea came to allow such a seemingly ideal (and homegrown) fit to leave the club at such a young age? After the jump we'll take a closer look at Sinclair and attempt to figure out how we seemingly misjudged the youngster so badly.

Sinclair spent his first several years at the club playing for the youth team. He made his debut for the big club in the spring of 2007, and then began a string of loan spells that included the following:

Plymouth Argyle (2007)

Queens Park Rangers (2007)

Charlton Athletic (2008)

Crystal Palace (2008)

Birmingham City (2009)

Wigan Athletic (2009-2010)

Chelsea wanted to send Sinclair out on loan again this fall (to Blackpool this time), but Sinclair was justifiably tired of switching addresses every four months. He had a brief chance to prove himself as a first teamer in 2008, but other then that he's not had much of a chance to prove himself at the club. Sinclair informed the team that he'd either like to remain in London or be allowed a permanent switch.

As mentioned earlier, Sinclair plays primarily on the right wing. He's more of a penetrating winger than a crossing creator, but he's still capable enough of putting in a solid cross to force the defense to play the flank. At 5'11" he's got more than enough size for the position, and his speed is acceptable as well. He's also capable of playing as a right sided midfielder, and has played the left (not all that well) in the past. All told, Sinclair looked to be a good fit for the roster, even if it was in a backup capacity. Here's a look at some of his work with Swansea earlier this year:

Despite having 4 unused homegrown roster spaces and a pair of center forwards playing as right wings, Chelsea opted to sell Sinclair to Swansea City for essentially nothing. Looking at Sinclair's performance at Swansea, you might wonder how we could possibly have failed to identify the talent we had. Sinclair hadn't previously done anything to indicate that this was coming though, netting only 6 times in his 65 starts between his 6 loan locations. It seems pretty clear to me that Sinclair did not benefit from training in different systems every four months, while getting little to no time to make an impression on the Chelsea coaching carousel.

At this point it appears clear that selling Sinclair was a mistake, but hopefully it's one that we learn from. Already this year we've seen most of our youngsters get a chance to train with the first team, followed by a loan in the second half. This seems like a far better scenario than sending the kids to several different teams every season, essentially preventing them from ever getting settled in a location. Hopefully we give these kids another crack at the first team in the fall and whomever our coach is actually gives them a start or two. It would also be nice to see Chelsea not throw away roster spots, if we have a player who is willing to stay and fight for time, let him. And Carlo, if your reading this, give some of our youth a chance...

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