By Scott Taylor
Jerome Sinclair is the next Liverpool Academy player to be reviewed in this series. He plays predominantly for Liverpool Under 18s and at 16, was the youngest ever player to have played for the football club. The Reds signed Sinclair from fellow Premier League side West Bromwich Albion when he was 14 years of age. Like many youngsters he was compared to a current or past icon of the game, and it was no different for Sinclair, who was compared to current Liverpool talisman Raheem Sterling because of his offensive attributes.
His breakthrough into Academy football came at the end of the 2011/2012 season when he made his debut for the Under 18s. Despite making four appearances, the forward did not score, but his work-rate convinced Mike Marsh that he was ready for that level of football. Marsh’s ‘gamble’ to play him paid off in the pre-season of the 2012/13 season when Sinclair netted a hat-trick against Exeter Under 18s. He continued his good form throughout the whole of pre-season, scoring eight times in the six games that was played. His first competitive goal for the Under 18s game back in August 2012, when he was on the scoresheet twice as Steve Cooper’s side drew 3-3 against Crystal Palace.
After settling into the Under 18 side, then Academy director Rodolfo Borrell came him a chance in the biggest stage of youth football, the NextGen Series. Sinclair started an put in a fine performance against the defending champions Inter Milan, creating a penalty for team-mate Krisztian Adorjan converted. Despite the Reds losing that game, Sinclair went on to score his first goal in Europe in Liverpool’s 4-1 win over Rosenborg.
After impressing Marsh, Cooper and now Borrell, Sinclair was raising eyebrows in the Anfield hierarchy. This was clear when first team manager Brendan Rodgers named him on the substitutes bench for their League Cup third round tie away at none other than his former side West Brom. When he replaced Samed Yesil in the 81st minute, he made history as he at 16 years and 6 days old became the youngest ever player to wear the red of Liverpool, wearing the number 48 shirt. He predominantly stayed in the Under 18s for the 2012/13 and 2013/14 seasons, but was given a chance in Alex Inglethorpe’s Liverpool Under 21s squad at the back end of the latter term.
Many of the Reds’ academy youngsters represent their country at youth level, and this is no different for Sinclair, who represents England. He made his debut for their Under 16 side in the 2011 Victory Shield, where he bagged a goal in the 4-0 win over Wales in October 2011. His other two goals came in the 2012 Montaigu Tournament in France, where he found the net in 1-0 wins against Morocco and the hosts. Overall in the Under 16s, he made five appearances, scoring three times. He has recently played for the Under 17s and his only goal thus far came in August 2012 where he scored in England’s 4-1 win over Turkey.
Sinclair has multiple strengths. As shown by his track record, the obvious one is his goal-scoring ability, whether that’s with his left or his right foot, he can fire it into the back of the net. As shown in Wednesday night’s FA Youth Cup victory over Derby County, Sinclair has the awareness to get in the right positions at the right time. He is also one of a number of tricky players in that side, and with his pace and acceleration, he is perfect for the model that Rodgers is trying to mould at Liverpool, and if Sinclair carries on his current rate of development, the SAS may return with Sinclair and Sturridge firing Liverpool to success