On the face of it, the England squad selected by Gareth Southgate for their matches against Germany and Lithuania this week offers little in the way of encouragement for Scott Sinclair.
The Celtic winger retains hope of representing his country but, so far, Southgate has shown no inclination to recognise his form for the Scottish champions. Instead, it was Southampton wide man Nathan Redmond who got his first call-up into a party already boasting the talents of Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallana, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jesse Lingard in the positions where Sinclair operates.
But the former Swansea City and Manchester City player refuses to discount his prospects of forcing his way into Southgate’s plans ahead of next year’s World Cup finals in Russia. For Sinclair, the return of 34-year-old Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe to the squad illustrates that the door is not closed.
“That goes to show that there is always time,” said Sinclair who will celebrate his 28th birthday on Saturday. “As a player, you always ask yourself ‘do I still want to play for my country or not?’ and my ambition is still there. I definitely haven’t given up on playing for England.
“For me, it’s about working hard, getting my best form back – which I feel I have done since joining Celtic – and creating and scoring goals. That’s all I can focus on. I haven’t heard anything from the England camp at all and I don’t know Gareth Southgate personally. But I’m always going to be looking to play for my country. All I can do is what’s in my control and that’s playing well. I played for England at every level from under-18s up to the under-21s. There was speculation about me getting into the senior squad when I was at Swansea, but that was a while ago now.”
Sinclair, however, does not believe he hampered his chances of international football by turning his back on the English game last summer to sign a four-year contract with Celtic. On the contrary, he feels the potential for regular participation in the group stage of the Champions League with Brendan Rodgers’ side can strengthen his case.
“There are a lot of international players in our squad at Celtic,” he observed. “I just have to keep my head down and, hopefully, my time will come. Not too many English players are in the Champions League, so if Celtic are in it, I don’t see why it can’t help me. I’m enjoying every single moment of it at Celtic. I’m in no rush to move back to the English Premier League. I’m happy to play under a manager who believes in me. We’re winning games and winning trophies and so you think ‘What more could you want?’”
The pursuit of happiness, which had deserted him during frustrating and often depressing spells at Manchester City and Aston Villa, was Sinclair’s biggest motivation in agreeing to join Rodgers at Celtic.
It was been a rewarding move for all concerned.
Sinclair’s form, including 18 goals so far, has been pivotal in Celtic’s thus far unbeaten domestic season, which sees them just one win short clinching a sixth consecutive title triumph and still on course for the club’s first treble since 2001.
“It’s probably gone even better than I expected,” admitted Sinclair. “When I arrived at first, I didn’t feel like I put too much pressure on myself. I just wanted to get the happiness and enjoyment back into my football and I’ve done that. In my career I’ve had so many downs so to get through it means I understand how happy things are for me right now. Playing for Villa and City in the Premier League is good and you get a decent contract but then you get older and you decide what makes you happy. It’s about trying to get a balance. It’s been excellent for me at Celtic so far. It’s not over this season, we still have work to do but on a personal level I’m happy to be playing and scoring and getting my form back. Going from tough times, which I’ve had, to this kind of thing makes you just want to enjoy the moment.”