By Izaak ParkinsonAs pre-season gets underway, fans across the country begin to speculate future signings, discuss their hopes for the team and begin to have that belief and optimism at the prospect of club success. One player certainly buzzing to get started is fans favourite Stuart Sinclair.
Since coming back from a lengthy injury, stretching back to late February last season, Sinclair has had to endure a tougher pre-season than others, “I’ve been in with the physio, making sure that I’m ready to start the pre-season. It’s nice to be back just kicking a football, it’s been a while and quite frustrating”.
Sinclair however, who will be starting in a friendly against his former side Sailsbury on Saturday, finally feels as though he’s ready to get back into action “I feel good, I feel sharp and still pretty fit. I can’t wait, just got to keep working hard and hopefully everything will work into place.”
Being his first game in a while, Sinclair will want to hit the ground running in pre-season “I’m going to be focusing on Saturday, you want to properly represent the club, being on the ball and getting game time is also important. I’ve been injured for a while, so it’s just about getting used to being back on the pitch, positioning and things falling into place”.
The former part-time personal trainer will have a personal triumph if he is to start in the first competitive game for Rovers vs Northampton at the Mem, being his first league appearance. “8th August is getting closer. It will feel massive [to be starting] but it’s great just to be in the side, that first game of the season is important. We have to show our intentions and be as strong as we can, physically and mentally”.
One emphasis that Manager Darrell Clarke has put on training has been the involvement of ball work “[Pre season] has definitely evolved; I’ve played some lower league football, and that is very running based, but the gaffer here brings the balls in very early.”
Known for his high tempo, admirable work ethic and pressing style of play on the pitch, Sinclair is a player who is looking to get back into the physical side of playing “All the twisting and turning movement is something I need to get used to on the pitch. I’m sick of the gym! - you need to be playing to get back to being used to it mentally.”
The central midfielder will be welcoming back Bristol’s own Chris Lines, who signed from Port Vale after a successful loan spell “Linsey’s been fantastic for us, I think he’s a massive signing for us. I think everyone who joins us knows all about our team spirit. You could see at Wembley our good team spirit. People fit in well here."
Another played who will feel like a new signing will be ex-Milwall and Crystal Palace striker Jermaine Easter, who has also been coming back from a lengthy injury, limiting his game time for Rovers.
“Jermaine’s a legend, he brings that professionalism from a higher level I think. He’s so driven, people don’t see it, but in training he’s just exceptional. I think it pushes everyone that next level. People like that in training are like gold dust really.”
No doubt Easter can bring the higher league experience to complement the young and impressionable players.
It will be a little longer before we see Jermaine back in acton but Sincalir is already looking forward to Saturday’s visit to his former club Salisbury. “It will feel weird. I had a good time at Salisbury, had a promotion and I loved my time there, but I’m a Bristol rovers fan now!” he grinned.
Salisbury have faced crippling debt, which left them unable to play last season “They’ve gone through a rough time. It was sad that it kind of fell apart. I’ve spoken to a few a people and they’ll be looking forward to it. It will be exciting for them to watch their own side again.”
One burning question for Sinclair will be if he believes Rovers can achieve double promotion “Oh without a doubt, when you look at last season and when we got promotion like that and we only had five defeats. Hopefully we can carry that winning mentality. It’s exciting. I know the boys will expect to do as best as we possibly can.”
Sinclair can certainly be proud of the progression he’s made throughout his career, and one indicator will be playing against his former club Luton Town "Yeah teams like Luton, because I was brought up in there and they were in the championship then. They’ve slipped down the leagues recently. It’s nice to know that I’ve worked my way up to get to this point where I’m going to play against the team that released me.”