Scott Sinclair has insisted his enjoyment of life in Glasgow will not be diminished by the racial abuse directed at him during last Saturday’s Old Firm match at Ibrox.
Rangers fan Paul Kenny admitted making racial gestures contrary to the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act when he appeared from custody at Glasgow Sheriff Court yesterday.
The 28-year-old, from Girvan, South Ayrshire, made the gestures after Sinclair opened the scoring in Celtic’s 5-1 win.
He was granted bail with the condition that he cannot go to any regulated football games.
Sinclair, who has revitalised his career at Celtic since joining them from Aston Villa last summer, spoke about the incident for the first time as he was named as one of the four short-listed nominees for the PFA Scotland Player of the Year award.
The 28-year-old says it is the first time he has directly encountered the issue of racism in football during his career but stressed it will not alter the positive feelings he has developed towards living in Scotland.
“That’s the first time it has happened here, the first time in my career actually, so I was quite taken aback by it,” said Sinclair.
“It was one of those things. It seems it will always be around with a minority of people – it’s always going to be there. For me there will always be people like that – I’ve got to carry on with my football and keep enjoying that.
“In football we want to kick it out because there’s no need for it. If any player goes through it during a game, you have to keep your head down and keep going on but you want it kicked out.
“My team-mates have got right behind me. They didn’t realise until after the game that it had happened – just like I did. It was great to get my team-mates’ support. Like I said, it’s the minority and you have to get on with it. No matter who you support there is no need for anything like that in football or in society.”
Sinclair is joined on the four-man PFA Scotland Player of the Year shortlist by his Celtic team-mates Moussa Dembele and Stuart Armstrong, along with Aberdeen winger Jonny Hayes.
“The season has gone far better than I could have expected, 100 per cent,” added Sinclair who has scored 25 goals for Celtic so far in their exceptional treble-chasing campaign.
“It’s got better and better with each game. It started with me coming on and scoring the winner on my debut against Hearts and from there it took off. When you come to a new club you just want to hit the ground running and do as well as you can.
“In the first five or six games I scored and it took a little bit of the pressure off. The thing is, when you come in with a price-tag – and you don’t score or do so well in the first few games – people are going to doubt you. So it was nice to get off the mark and go on a good run.”
Sinclair feels vindicated in a career choice which he knew might attract criticism in England where he previously played for Swansea City, Manchester City and Aston Villa.
“No-one ever said don’t come up here,” he said. “The players who played for Celtic said that I’d love it, but there wasn’t anyone who said that I shouldn’t come. I knew people down in England might say that the league in Scotland wasn’t good, but I wasn’t fussed about anything people said. The thing for me was to be back happy in football and in life. It was great for me to get to the stage where I had the right balance of enjoyment.
“I just wanted to come up here to play football and get that enjoyment back. Over the previous two or three years it was tough, being at City and not even getting on the bench some weeks and training on my own. I then went to Villa and got relegated.
“I found I was at a crossroads in my career, not knowing where I was going to end up or where I was going to go. But now I’m here and everything seems like it’s on the way up again.”