Preston North End winger Scott Sinclair aiming to find his goal touch when the season resumes
Scott Sinclair didn’t let an empty ground hold him back in Preston North End’s warm-up game at Burnley last week and hopes he can carry that mindset into the season’s restart.
PNE met the Clarets at Turf Moor to help shake off the match rust after the three-month break in the campaign.
Sinclair netted a superb solo goal to secure a 1-1 draw and the winger hopes that is him up and running.
The Lilywhites start a nine-game dash to finish the regular season with a visit to Luton Town on Saturday.
If results are strong, they will land in the play-offs and challenge for a place in the Premier League – something Sinclair did successfully earlier in his career at Swansea City.
Last Saturday’s friendly at Burnley was both a fitness exercise and a chance for players to acclimatise themselves with playing behind closed doors.
Although there is hope fans could be back inside stadiums in the autumn, the remainder of this season will be played to a backdrop of empty stadiums.
Sinclair said: “It was good to score against Burnley.
“When you score in any game, even if it is a friendly, you get confidence and an edge from it.
“We’ve had games among the squad but last week’s was my first against another team since we came back to training.
“With it being a friendly I didn’t celebrate. I don’t know how I would react if I scored in the league in an empty ground – I would only be
able to tell you if it did happen. It is not something you plan for.”
Matches behind closed doors for the remainder of the 2019/20 season will be a big change for players, fans and staff alike.
The everyday routine of training is also very different as Sinclair explains.
“We’ve had to adapt to a new routine,” said the former Celtic man.
“Normally you’d come in, sit in the dressing room, have some bonding and a bit of banter,” said Sinclair.
“There would be time for a game of darts if you wanted, things like that.
“You would go and prepare yourself in the gym for training and then go out there and train.
“Just generally you had a lot more involvement around the training ground over the course of the day.
“Now we drive here in our kit, go straight to the pitch, train and go home again.
“It’s very different but it is something we have to adapt to the best we can. You have to be disciplined, make sure off the pitch you don’t get too close to other people.
“We are being well looked after here by the staff, we are getting tested twice a week.
“Now we are at the stage where we just want to play.
“A lot of players, myself included, have missed playing football and once we are back out there that will be great.”
Lockdown for Sinclair was complicated slightly by a planned house move.
He had been living in a hotel since January’s switch from Celtic but was ready to move into a new family home. That was put on hold, although the removal van should be in action soon.
Said Sinclair: “We were about to do the removal from Scotland when the virus came.
“We couldn’t move so I’ve been living with the in-laws who have been brilliant.
“A lot of lockdown was taken up by home-schooling the kids – I took turns with the missus.
“If there was a chance to watch a box set we did, but the kids are a handful like everyone’s are!”
The Premier League’s return on Wednesday saw players from Aston Villa, Sheffield United, Arsenal and Sinclair’s former club Manchester City take the knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Such support is expected to be shown in the Championship this weekend and 31-year-old Sinclair is right behind it. “It is a very powerful message and I think it is about everyone coming together as a unit – that needs to be done,” said Sinclair.
“When everyone gets together that is the best way to make change happen.
“I think a lot will do the same. A lot of players and teams are on board. It is a great thing to see.”
Sinclair also applauded Manchester United and England striker Marcus Rashford for his successful campaign to extend the free school meals service during the holidays.
Said Sinclair: “It is amazing what Marcus has done. He has used his platform and brought everyone together.
“He is a only a young lad of 22 or 23, so for him to make a change – make the Government go back on their word and do the free meals – he should be very proud.
“Marcus doing what he has done shows the player power and influence we have to make a difference.