The Liverpool team that defeated Manchester City on Sunday had an average age of 23, with seven players aged 24 or under. Liverpool’s young side are making waves in the Premier League but who is next on the Anfield production line?
With 21 goals this season, Jerome Sinclair has consistently impressed in Liverpool Academy sides in 2014/15. The England youth international is closing in on Brendan Rodger’s squad, having joined the first-team in the Reds’ Europa League exit against Besiktas in Istanbul last week.
Sinclair already holds the distinction of being the youngest player to turn out for Liverpool, making his senior debut with a nine minute cameo in a League Cup tie at West Brom in september 2012. The 18-year-old shares the same qualities with first choice striker Sturridge and as Brendan Rodgers would surely agree, would marry these with the hunger and exuberance of youth.
Who is Jerome Sinclair?
Jerome Terence Sinclair is an English footballer born in Birmingham in September 1996. He was a member of the West Brom academy between the ages of 10 and 14 before being spotted by Liverpool.
Liverpool signed Sinclair as a 14-year-old from the West Bromwich Albion youth academy in the summer of 2011. A very highly rated youngster, it has been suggested that the Liverpool coaching staff consider his potential to be at a similar level to that of Raheem Sterling. He impressed greatly in Under 18s pre-season friendly and went on to score his first competitive goals for the Under 18s on 25 August 2012, hitting a brace in a 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace. His fine form brought him to the attention of first team coach Brendan Rodgers. He called Sinclair up to the first team for the League Cup third round tie away to West Brom on 26 September 2012. He came off the bench in the 81st minute to break Jack Robinson’s record as Liverpool’s youngest ever player at 16 years and 6 days old.
In the 2013-14 season, Sinclair’s goal scoring improved further as, despite struggling with injuries, he netted 14 goals in 18 appearances. He was the U18s top league goal scorer and joint-top overall with Harry Wilson in FA Youth Cup games. He also made two appearances for the U21s during their season.
Internationally, Sinclair has represented England at under 16 and under 17 level. His debut came in the Victory Shield in October 2011, when Wales were beaten 4-0.
His first goals for the Three Lions came at the 2012 Montaigu Tournament in France, helping them secure wins against the hosts and Morocco.
Style of play, Strengths and Weaknesses
A bullish, pacey striker, with a solid understanding of movement and a rapidly developing eye for goal. Sinclair has a knack of getting into the right place at the right time to gobble up loose balls. He seems strong with both feet when in and around the penalty area and has good placement. He has tricky feet and good acceleration too, so he fits in with the fluid passing game the Liverpool academy try to foster.
On the front-foot, Sinclair plays off the shoulder of the opposition defender, utilising his pace — a quality reminiscent of first-team strikers Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling. To add to that, Sinclair described Sterling’s rise as a “benchmark,” and inspiration to progress. With this in mind, what is increasingly apparent this season is that Sinclair is becoming an exceptional finisher, as his deadly, near post goal in January against Manchester United U21 side (with Victor Valdes in goal) would indicate.
Sinclair showed off how much his game has kicked on with a dominating performance for the Red’s Under-21 side in their 2-0 win over Chelsea, winning a penalty in the first half which was converted by Harry Wilson and then scoring a stunning second. All hustle and bustle, his goal showed off his raw pace and power as he burst through a gaggle of Chelsea defenders and fired past Jamal Blackman with his weaker foot. Of course, this rate of development can only be aided by Sinclair learning from the very best, with Robbie Fowler a regular at the Academy training ground.
The area Sinclair unfortunately is lacking is in is the aerial department. At just 5ft 8in, Sinclair will find it hard to be a dominant force in the air. But as 5ft 6in Sterling has shown this season, a lack of aerial prowess can be negated by intelligent movement and use of physical strength.
What does the future hold?
With Mario Balotelli failing to fit in and Daniel Sturridge still being handled with kid gloves following his injury worries this season, it won’t be a surprise if Sinclair is back in Brendan Rodgers’ first-team before the end of the season.
Sinclair clearly has the talent, and the right attributes, to become a successful striker in Rodgers’ high intensity, pace based system at Liverpool, but he may need to gain experience before he becomes a first-team player. A loan spell would benefit Sinclair, and would likely iron out his current pitfalls. The Championship in particular, would be a formidable physical test for the 18-year-old. Rodgers has another high-potential star in his ranks, and now Sinclair has to prove he has what it takes to become a Liverpool great.
The likes of Raheem Sterling and Jordon Ibe are now entrenched in the first-team squad, but will Jerome Sinclair be the next big thing at the Red’s Kirkby Academy?
Written by Akhil Mathew
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