Dave Seddon’s PNE pressview: Preston’s logical signing of Scott Sinclair is both beautiful and magical
Should Scott Sinclair’s time at Preston North End be as beautiful and magical as the welcome he has received, the Lilywhites faithful are in for a treat.
I don’t think a signing has been as excitedly received at Deepdale for many years, certainly in the hashtag era of social media.
This has eclipsed the second coming of David Nugent last summer and this signing is certainly in a different ballpark to the nostalgic return of Nuge.
Kevin Davies’ arrival in 2013 generated plenty of excitement but nothing in comparison to North End announcing Sinclair had signed on the dotted line.
Bringing in a player of Sinclair’s calibre is the type of signing many PNE fans have yearned for quite some time now.
A decent squad has been built over the last few seasons and what was needed was a bit of zip and quality to go on top.
Sinclair’s CV suggests he fits the bill having played the vast majority of his career in the top-flights of English and Scottish football.
He has had a promotion from the Championship to his name, scoring a hat-trick in Swansea’s play-off final victory over Reading at Wembley in 2011.
Manchester City once paid more than £6m for him, with him moving for fees totalling £13m or so.
We can debate the strength of the Scottish Premiership until the cows come home but the fact is Sinclair scored 62 goals for Celtic north of the border, playing Champions League and Europa League football.
He won their player of the year award and the Celtic fans had a chant in his honour to the tune of Supertramp’s Logical Song.
For those not familiar with early 1970s prog rock music, that is where the ‘beautiful and magical’ line comes from.
The build-up to Sinclair becoming a Preston player started in earnest on Monday night when news broke in Scotland that he could be heading here.
He was in Dubai at the time with the Celtic squad for a few days of warm weather training during the winter break they sensibly have up there.
Once PNE’s negotiations with his agent and Celtic were complete, he was on board a flight back to Glasgow.
It wasn’t until 10pm on Wednesday that North End were in a position to press go on the deal, part of his medical having only been done that evening.
By Thursday morning he was shaking hands with his new team-mates in the canteen at Springfields and then pulling on his boots for a first training session under Alex Neil.
Dubai to the banks of Savick Brook in the space of a few days!
For Neil, Sinclair’s arrival marked the conclusion of a search for Callum Robinson’s replacement.
That search had started in July when £8m took Robbo across the Pennines to Sheffield United.
North End asked about Sinclair’s availability then and didn’t get too far due to the price tag.
Six months on and with the player’s Celtic contract running down, they were able to do business.
It was a deal which suited Sinclair, PNE and Celtic.
The move presents the winger with the chance to get regular first-team action, something he didn’t get in the first-half of this season.
Celtic offloaded a player who was out of the picture, freeing up space if they want to do some January business of their own.
North End get the quality Sinclair clearly possesses and hopefully he can produce that in abundance over the coming seasons.
His strongest position where in the main he produced the goods for Celtic was down the left side of the attack, cutting inside on to his right foot.
That is the position which Sean Maguire has in the main filled this season and of late taken stick from some quarters for how he has performed there.
Goals and assists might have been in short supply of late but the effort was there, Neil explaining Maguire’s absence for the FA Cup last week was due to him getting a breather having returned the highest intensity statistics in the squad.
Neil bristled somewhat at a question during Thursday’s press conference about where the arrival of Sinclair would leave Maguire.
His reply was along the lines that places were up for grabs right across the front line after the shortage of goals over the last 10 league games – just five in that time.
That left hand role still looks the favourite for Sinclair to fill though, but he can play through the middle.
His arrival certainly makes the departure of Andre Green last week far more logical now.
There was something of an outcry when Green headed back to Aston Villa and then straight out on loan to Charlton.
But he hadn’t been used regularly since August and at all since October, the cutting short of his loan creating room in the squad and on the wage bill.
Along the front, Neil now has Sinclair, Maguire, Nugent, Tom Barkhuizen, Jayden Stockley, Billy Bodin and Josh Harrop to call on.
We can probably discount Josh Ginnelly, with the plan being to send him out on loan to get games.
What comes next after Sinclair in terms of new blood, we’ll have to see.
A decent amount of budget has been used getting Sinclair here, not in terms of a fee but wages.
Hopefully there is some left to allow another tweak or two as North End seek to recover from the recent dip in form and mount a strong push over the second-half of the season.
The play-off places are wide open, this is a campaign where a whole of host of clubs will fancy their chances of claiming a slot in the top six.
Sinclair has the pedigree to make a difference and provide that know-how. An extra body this month might help even more.
Best of luck to Sinclair, a signing both exciting and logical.