Jerome Terence Sinclair, Sunderland’s new signing, was picked up at the age of fourteen from West Brom’s academy by Liverpool. However, the initial promise which caught the eyes of Merseyside’s scouts never materialised into a substantial career with Liverpool, and Sinclair moved on to Watford where he has since seldom featured.
But how come such a talented prospect - a talent toe-to-toe with Raheem Sterling - didn’t end up making it there? Roker Report asked for the lowdown from Liverpool fan blog This Is Anfield on why Sinclair fell short of expectations, and this is what they had to say.
RR: Jerome Sinclair obviously left Liverpool about two and a half years ago now, but the reasons surrounding what went on when he departed might not be common knowledge to the majority of Sunderland supporters. Can you just take us through that situation - I read a bid was turned down from Bournemouth before eventually left, and the move to Watford went to tribunal...
TIA: Sinclair was one of the first clutch of young players brought through into Jurgen Klopp’s squad when short of numbers in the early months of his Liverpool tenure. He was on the bench for his first game in charge, scored on his first start in the FA Cup against Exeter and was in the squad another three times between Klopp’s arrival and his own departure.
But it became apparent in the final weeks of his time at the club that his ‘ambitions’ jarred with the ideals of Klopp, who said - directly referencing a contract impasse between Sinclair and Liverpool - “what we try to do is create a situation where younger players know it is not important to get the highest wages in your life in the first year of your career.”
He was linked with a host of clubs both abroad (Espanyol, Gronigen) and in England (including Manchester City), but the strongest interest was clearly from Watford.
After their bid of £3m was turned down in January, he ultimately signed a deal on the expiry of his contract with Liverpool the following summer; after tribunal, the Hornets paid £4m.
RR: Take me back to that time, just before he left. How highly rated was he?
TIA: At the time it seemed a bold move for Sinclair, competing with Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo, and Klopp nailed it with his assessment of the striker when addressing his contract talks: “He has skills, he is a very good shooter but physically it is not easy for him in the centre position in a Premier League game against 6’4” defenders to survive.”
He was a quick, lithe, predatory striker who was really impressive at youth level, but his long-term path to first-team football was never going to be at Liverpool; as we’ve seen with Daniel Sturridge this pre-season, you need to adapt to become an all-round centre-forward to make it under Klopp.
RR: His progress has been halted in the last two years but he’s still just 21 year old. Let’s say he’s a success at Sunderland - do you still think he can meet those expectations if he can have a good year here?
TIA: It’s difficult to say, because Sinclair’s largely found himself in obscurity since leaving Liverpool. I seem to recall he showed flashes of promise on loan at Birmingham in 2017, but their managerial uncertainty stagnated any progress, while his training at Watford will no doubt have aided his physical development - so he could be a revelation at Sunderland.
I would proffer that, if he has shifted his mentality from those final months at Liverpool and is committed to the cause in League One, he could prove to be a fine signing for Sunderland.
RR: Taking into account the way he left Liverpool, how would you say he’s viewed by your fans now?
TIA: Given Liverpool have moved on considerably since Sinclair left, I’d say few would have a strong opinion on him to be honest. He was a prospect, but didn’t fit in with the manager’s ideals, and the standards at the academy have improved vastly since then.
Some may recall his affiliation with Aidy Ward, who engineered Raheem Sterling’s acrimonious exit in 2015, but beyond that I’d say he’s gone under the radar to say the least.