So often, young footballers are touted for greatness only to find themselves stuck in football wilderness just years later – former Liverpool star Jerome Sinclair is the latest to have gone through the ignominy of that fate.
The forward was touted to be the next big thing out of the Reds’ academy having joined the club at the age 14 from West Bromwich Albion. That early promise was rewarded in earnest with a first-team debut for the Merseyside outfit at the age of 16 years and six days as he came off the bench in a League Cup showdown against his former club.
A prolific 20-goal season in the Reds’ youth ranks then saw the striker earn comparisons to Kop hero Michael Owen.
Sinclair went on to make another four appearances for Liverpool during his time at Anfield – twice representing the Reds in the Premier League.
Things started to go wrong though during a loan spell with Wigan Athletic as the attacker represented the then Championship side just once despite Jamie Carragher having touted the youngster for big things.
Speaking at the time, he said: “He needs to go out on loan, get games under his belt and prove himself in men’s football. Hopefully at the start of next season he will go on the pre-season tour and show Brendan Rodgers what he can do.”
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“Hopefully he will go on to have a great career and I can tell people I played with Jerome Sinclair,” the former defender added.
Things then soured even further with Sinclair electing to quit Liverpool. After failing in a swoop for his services in January, Watford moved for the youngster – a tribunal deciding that the Hornets should pay £4m for the striker.
Speaking at the time, Liverpool schemer Jurgen Klopp said: “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.
“So, money talks? I like Jerome, he is a real talent and if he wants to stay with us no problem. If not, we cannot force it.”
The move did not go as planned as in four years as a Watford player, Sinclair was restricted to just 12 appearances and scored only one goal. He was sent out on five separate loan spells during his spell at Vicarage Road – Birmingham City, Sunderland, Oxford United, VVV-Venlo and CSKA Sofia all counting themselves among Sinclair’s temporary employers since he decided to wave goodbye to Anfield.
He officially left Watford at the end of the 2020/21 season as a free agent and now finds himself without a club at the age of 26.
There were suggestions that he could have returned to former club Oxford United this summer having trained with the League One side and even appeared in a couple of friendlies. Speaking at the time, U’s boss Karl Robinson said: “If he keeps improving, yeah [we would like him to stay], in that period of time he’s been away he showed the energy he’s got.
“He’s different to Matty (Taylor), he’s different to Sam (Baldock), he’s younger. He would be ours, he wouldn’t be a loan, so there’s a lot of positives.”
In the end, Sinclair did not earn a deal at the Kassam Stadium and is now back at the drawing board having become just the latest in a long line of promising youngsters to have faded from the spotlight.