It would be fair to say that Jake Sinclair’s departure from Southampton didn’t quite generate as many headlines as those of his fellow 19-year-olds Luke Shaw and Calum Chambers, the pair netting the Saints a cool £43 million as they moved to Manchester United and Arsenal respectively.
No money at all exchanged hands as Sinclair cut his ties with St Mary’s Stadium – at least for the rest of the season – but today the diminutive striker insisted he was just as excited by his loan move to Hibs as Shaw and Chambers undoubtedly were when their megabucks deals went through this summer.
But rather than feeling he’s the poor neighbour, Sinclair insisted seeing his fellow teenagers hit the jackpot has simply served to inspire him, claiming his switch to Easter Road could be a stepping stone towards establishing himself as a regular in Ronald Koeman’s side when he returns next summer.
Revealing he didn’t need to be asked twice when made aware of Alan Stubbs’ interest, Sinclair said: “I’d done okay pre-season with Southampton but I didn’t really play as much as I would have liked. I didn’t really get a chance. Hibs are a big club in Scotland and I felt this would be a good opportunity for me to get some good game time in.
“The fact Hearts and Rangers are in the same league was another factor – two more big teams and, of course, the prospect of some derby football.”
While candidly admitting he doesn’t know a great deal about Scottish football, the fact Stubbs, Everton’s former Under-21 manager, was now in charge at Easter Road was, Sinclair insisted, another attraction given the former Celtic defender’s impressive record at Goodison Park in bringing through youngsters such as Ross Barkley, John Stones, Seamus Coleman and Luke Garbutt.
He said: “I know he likes young players and will give youth a chance – just look at what he did at Everton.
“Southampton also have some record for producing young players. You can go back to Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gareth Bale and then this summer Luke and Calum moving on along with Adam Lallana, who is that wee bit older than us, going to Liverpool for £25 million.”
So what does he make of players of his age commanding such fees? “It doesn’t faze me one bit,” he insisted. “They’ve all been doing really well, they’ve got their chance and it inspires me to be like them. I haven’t had that chance yet, but hopefully coming to Hibs will prove to be a stepping stone for me.
“Like Southampton, Hibs also have a super record for producing good young players – Steven Fletcher at Sunderland, Scott Brown at Celtic and Steven Whittaker at Norwich City for instance.
“I look round the dressing-room at Easter Road and I see a lot of players round about my age and with the gaffer’s record at Everton you know that if you work hard you’ll be offered that opportunity to play in the first team. “Hopefully I can impress him, get my place in the team, and hold on to it.”
Sinclair, a transfer deadline day arrival alongside 21-year-old Celtic midfielder Dylan McGeouch, will hope to begin working on that aim on Saturday when Hibs face Cowdenbeath in the Capital, again quite openly admitting he knows “nothing” about the Fife outfit although he does have an idea in general of what to expect from his sojourn north of the border.
He said: “I reckon it will be tough, quick with hard tackles. The tackling is maybe the one thing I’m a wee bit worried about, but that’s football.
“I’m not the tallest, so I think with my brain. I’m quick, so I’d like to think I can bring some pace and goals to the team. Running in behind, my movement and running at people is my forte.
“It’s also going to be something of a geography lesson going to a lot of different places for the first time. I’d never been to Edinburgh before. I’m trying to find somewhere to live but the city is nice – I really like it.
“The training centre at East Mains is amazing. I have to admit I didn’t expect anything like that – it’s better than what some of the Premier League teams in England enjoy. All the boys, the coaching staff and the gaffer have been good with me. It’s been easy to settle in – it’s been fun and that’s the main thing.”
And if Sinclair needs a word of advice, he need only pick up the phone to his older brother Scott, a £6.2 million signing by Manchester City from Swansea – although the 25-year-old has found it difficult to pin down a first-team place under Manuel Pellegrini given the galaxy of superstars the Sky Blues have amassed.
He said: “I look up to Scott, he’s my role model because he’s my brother. It was great fun when we were younger growing up together and playing football, although Scott, because I was younger, always made me go in goals.
I feel he’s a bit unlucky not to be playing at the moment. It’s really hard for him but, no disrespect to him, he’s not worth £30 million like David Silva or Samir Nasri, people like that.”