BEARING in mind I come from Motherwell, where memories are long and a sense of injustice over the 2017 Betfred Cup final still burns in the bellies of all good Steelmen, I do not embark on this column lightly.

It may after all see my eldest finally lose that last tiny shred of respect he has for me by the age of eight, as well as lead to me being shunned in the boozer like the old boy at the end of the bar that always talks about how good Brexit is. But Scott Sinclair should be remembered as a Celtic legend.

Is he up there with the greatest players to have played with the club, worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Jimmy Johnstone or Henrik Larsson? In terms of ability, no. Far more talented players than Sinclair, as accomplished as he is, have graced the Hoops over the years. But in terms of his impact and the honours he helped the club win? Absolutely.

It is difficult to think of a player who has enjoyed such a successful spell at Celtic, with Sinclair undoubtedly one of the central figures to the unprecedented ‘treble Treble’ era that the club’s supporters are living through.

In fact, while Brendan Rodgers may have been the man to lay the groundwork for that success, it was Sinclair who sparked it all off one sunny afternoon at Tynecastle.

After climbing off the bench on that opening day of the season to steer home Leigh Griffiths’ cross to give Celtic a late win, he became arguably the central figure of what would eventually become known as the ‘Invincibles’ season.

He went on to score 25 goals in that first campaign, winning the PFA Scotland and SFWA player of the year awards as a result. He would end his Celtic career with 62 goals from 167 appearances, 10 winner’s medals from 10 available in his collection, and with the warmest regards from the Celtic support as he seeks more regular first-team football in the English Championship with Preston.

It is a shame that the emotional farewell is being conducted via social media rather than from the stands, with Sinclair denied the chance to say a proper goodbye to the supporters at Celtic Park, but that may come down the line.

It was always going to be difficult to maintain the standards of that blistering first season, and yet, despite a perception that his level of performance tailed off, his assists and scoring stats still held up strongly. He bagged 18 goals as Celtic racked up a double Treble in 2017/18, and then 17 more last season as the treble Treble was sealed.

The evidence that his influence was on the wane was mounting though. A large proportion of his goals last term came in a hot streak over December and January, when he scored eight goals in seven games.

After a Scottish Cup hat-trick in early February against St Johnstone at Celtic Park, he got his last goal of the campaign later that month in a home win over Motherwell (it would be, wouldn’t it?) despite making 12 further appearances.

The arrival of Neil Lennon was not the catalyst for Sinclair’s exit, but rather, coincided with a downturn in his influence. Some Celtic supporters are upset over the way that Sinclair has been treated of late, often not even being included in matchday squads.

I can sympathise to a point. There is an argument to say that Sinclair should have been preferred to Lewis Morgan on occasion this season, particularly when the former St Mirren man was being asked to lead the line. If you have seen Sinclair of late, you will know that he has been spending a lot of time in the gym, and has added a physicality to his game that may have proved useful in the role.

On the flip side, while Sinclair is now 30, Morgan is just 23, and Lennon may see more value in giving game-time to a player he feels has a long-term future at the club. In addition, Sinclair’s last appearance for Celtic in the dead rubber in Cluj suggested that as well as the understandable ring-rust he has picked up of late, he may have sacrificed some of his pace and mobility for bulk and strength during these last few months. To his great credit, he never once publicly grumbled about his situation during that time. He kept the head down and worked hard.

It is a shame that a Celtic career that gave so much to both player and club should end so underwhelmingly, playing in a shadow side in a dead rubber in Romania, but it seems like the right move for both Sinclair and Celtic at this point in time. As one of the club’s highest earners, he was too expensive to be sitting in the stand.

Perhaps the only people mourning his departure from the Scottish scene as much as Celtic fans are digital desks on newspapers up and down the country, who will now be starved of stories updating us all on where he and wife Helen Flanagan went for their tea, but his achievements in the past in a green and white jersey shouldn’t disguise the hard truth that his time at the club was up. Lennon is trying to deliver a ninth title in a row. There can be no room for sentiment.

Celtic supporters will however be left with the memories. For them, and for Sinclair, it was beautiful, magical.


IT was with great sadness that I learnt of the death of Tom Gill from Erskine just before Christmas, a regular contributor to The Herald letters page over the years where he put forward his views on football. RIP Tom.