Scott Sinclair has told Steven Caulker that if there is anywhere to get his career back on track, Celtic is it.
It might be a little premature to be joining the dots just yet, but Brendan Rodger’s commitment to Caulker, the troubled QPR defender, could go further than just a paternal interest. The 25-year-old has recently spoken about his battle with addiction and depression, revealing that he had contemplated suicide such was the depth of his despair.
Rodgers has confirmed that he picked up the phone to Caulker, whom he made captain after taking him to Swansea on a season-long loan deal, displacing promotion-winning captain Garry Monk. The defender has a year remaining on his deal at QPR but was left behind this summer as the team embarked on a pre-season in the United States.
The Celtic manager has a reputation for wrapping a metaphorical arm around the shoulder of those in need and there were suggestions last week that Caulker could yet hook up with his old boss again. It is early days for a player whose vulnerability has been exposed with his decision to give a public account of his troubles but with Dedryck Boyata out for the next three months and Erik Sviatchenko increasingly toiling a move for Caulker could make sense for Celtic.
Rodgers has brought the best out of Sinclair, another player whom he coached in his younger days, and the winger, who scored on Friday night as Celtic comfortably saw off Linfield in Belfast, believes a fit and stable Caulker would fit in well in Glasgow. Such is Sinclair’s assurance that Rodgers would be the man to keep the former Tottenham youth player on the right road that he wouldn’t hesitate to tell him to get himself to Celtic should the opportunity arise.
“He would be a great signing,” said the 28-year-old. “The manager knows him well from being at Swansea. He had an amazing season there and hopefully he can get his career back on track. This is a great club to be at for him as well. I’m sure he looks at myself and can see I was at a crossroads. There is no better place to be at than Celtic. If he ever spoke to me I’d tell him it’s the best place to be. He was terrific that year on loan at Swansea. It would be mazing for Caulks to sign here.
“For myself I went from club to club not really settling in I don’t think there would be a better place for Caulks than to come up here and get his football back on track and enjoying it again.
“It’s about if you still want it. I was out of the game for two and a bit years and I’m here talking to you guys. So much has changed since then. The manager is definitely the type of guy who can help him.
“Caulks still cares and I think he still wants to be playing football. If he comes here he will be a great signing.”
Sinclair himself was one of the pivotal players for Celtic last season as the club were revitalised under Rodgers. Last season’s PFA Player of the Year, Sinclair netted 27 goals and picked up where he left off on Friday evening in Belfast as Celtic began their quest to return to the riches of the Uefa Champions League.
It was fitting that Sinclair netted the opening goal of that comfortable 2-0 win after being subject to racial abuse in the game with bananas slung in his direction, although the player himself insisted there is still much more to come from Celtic.
“To be honest it was quite disappointing,” he said of the game. “We didn’t play as well as a team. There should have been more goals but it was our first game and we won it so it’s a positive note going into the home game.
“Now we need to make sure we get a win there as well. I don’t think they caused us too many problems. It was a game that was one-sided where we controlled it from start to finish.
“But I think it tested us and we need to keep the tempo up when we control games and need to finish them off. To get through into the group stages is what’s everyone is fighting for.”
Linfield are expected to bring around 1500 supporters to Glasgow this week, although there is not expected to be a repeat of the scenes inside Windsor Park. Bottles, coins and cans were thrown on to the pitch, with Leigh Griffiths the main target every time he went to take a corner. The striker was the recipient of perhaps the most bizarre booking of his career when Spanish referee Alejandro Hernandez showed him a yellow card, presumably for time wasting, as he attempted to dodge a Buckfast bottle, among others, as he went to take the set-piece.
Griffiths was later targeted by one supporter who broke through the security barricades to get on to the pitch in the aftermath of the game, although the Celtic striker was ill-advised in taking a Celtic scarf and tying it to a Linfield goal-post.
“I didn’t see it,” said Sinclair. “I was walking in. All I saw was some police running out. It was disappointing he got bottles thrown at him. I think everyone was scratching their heads over why he got a yellow card.
“No-one has said why he was booked, not yet anyway. But it happens, you get on with it and carry on with the game.”
Sinclair was not at the club this time 12 months ago when the fragilities within the Celtic side were glaringly evident in Gibraltar. His presence in the Parkhead side helped to solidify the team, with his speed in particular key to the aggression and pressing that Celtic displayed throughout last term.
And, like Rodgers, Sinclair believes Celtic are in a far better place as they attempt to reach the group stages of Europe’s premier competition again this season.
“I wasn’t here, but this was the first game we lost coming away a year ago,” reflected the winger. “It’s great we’ve got the win and it sets us up going forward.”