Frank Sinclair on joining Burnley: "There weren't many managers would have convinced me to leave where I was living"

It was a jump into the unknown, both in footballing and geographical terms.

Wednesday, 10th June 2020, 8:00 am
Frank Sinclair holds off Reading's Dave Kitson

But former Clarets captain Frank Sinclair was happy to take a leap of faith and take on the challenge at Turf Moor on the back of his relationship with Steve Cotterill.

In the summer of 2004, Cotterill took over the reins at Burnley after the six-year reign of Stan Ternent, but faced a rebuild, coming into a club with only eight contracted senior players.

Sinclair was one of the first people he turned to, having worked together at Leicester City, in testing circumstances.

Earlier that year, the former Chelsea defender, along with Keith Gillespie and Paul Dickov shared a cell after being arrested, and subsequently freed, before being cleared of rape and sexual assault charges against three holidaymakers in La Manga, where the Foxes had been on a training camp.

More than two months after the arrests, all charges were dropped, and DNA evidence proved none of them had sexual contact with the women.

But the trio were left to train away from the first team, with Cotterill, who arrived at the club in the March, keeping an eye on them.

He built up a rapport with Sinclair during that time, and when he was released that summer, Cotterill made his move.

Sinclair said: "I built up quite a good relationship with Steve because it was a tough time at Leicester for me.

"Obviously we'd had the situation with what happened in La Manga, and coming off the back of that, I was separated from the first team, and Steve had been given the duties of coaching and trying to keep fit two or three lads who weren't involved.

"I was in this situation where I was kind of a scapegoat, because of Micky Adams, and Steve took a lot of time with me, so we were doing sessions in the afternoon, he was keeping me fit, and grew a relationship off the back of that.

"Because of my attitude in that situation, I didn't mess about and did everything asked of me, I think that stuck with him, when I was released."

Sinclair was 32 when he arrived at the club, having spent 15 years at Chelsea and another six at Leicester, where he commuted from his home in Surrey.

So Sinclair would have to move lock, stock and barrel to the north west: "During the summer, I was speaking to a few clubs and Steve rang me up out of the blue.

"I was at home training on my own, and he said he'd just got the Burnley job and was recruiting a few players, and wanted to see if I'd be interested in going up there.

"Initially, he said moneywise it was going to be a drastic change, but he said he thought I'd play a big part in the next couple of years at the club.

"That's what sold it to me, the fact that he was a young manager, pretty inexperienced at that level, and, if anything, it was a bit of paying him back for the time he put into me when I was in a tough period at Leicester.

"There weren't many managers would have convinced me to leave where I was living, in London. I was based in Surrey, not far from Heathrow, but I knew I would have to relocate.

"It was a big commitment for me, to take that on.

"And the relationship I had with Steve made it easier for me to settle and commit."

Sinclair, however, was hugely frustrated with how it ended for him at Leicester, and what he perceived was a lack of backing in difficult circumstances: "I was really disappointed with it, I was in negotiations for a new contract, two-years, and all of a sudden everything went quiet.

"I was disappointed with the fact the club knew we hadn't really done anything, they didn't show us the support I thought they would have done, to be honest.

"It was a tough enough season as it was because we were in a relegation battle, and, for me, I couldn't understand why you would leave some of your best players out because of an incident that had nothing to do with football.

"But, financially I think that was more of a reason I was made a scapegoat, rather than football terms.

"Something like that hadn't happened in years, the fact so many players were accused of something like that, the papers made a massive meal of it, and, unfortunately, a few players suffered off the back of it with their careers, in what direction they were going in."

Although he had spent most of his career in the top flight, with Burnley in the Championship after two seasons of struggle, he was happy to take the plunge: "There was nothing serious, my agent was talking with a few different clubs in the Championship, a couple of Premier League clubs as well.

"There wasn't anything serious enough that made me think to hold on and wait after Steve rang me. The one thing I didn't want to do was let the season get up and running and still be looking for a club.

"I know how difficult it is.

"Once I'd spoken to Steve, the relationship we had and trust that was there, it pretty much made my mind up and I was quite happy to come up to Burnley.

"When he spoke to me, he had something like six players when he first took over, but I liked that idea, he was putting his own group together.

"There was some good young players coming through, and he thought he needed the right sort of experience like myself and John McGreal to guide these players.

"It was a great challenge for me, something totally different to what I'd been used to.

"I'd never really been out of the Premier League, other than one season when Leicester got relegated and came back up again.

"It was a little bit into the unknown, going to play at a different level."

His first season at the club was one of consolidation, although the club enjoyed knocking Premier League Liverpool out of the FA Cup and Aston Villa out of the League Cup.

The side were built on a miserly defence, in which Sinclair more than played his part at right back or centre back, conceding only 39 goals in 46 league games.

Sinclair recalled: "There were a couple of things behind that, Steve and Dave Kevan worked tirelessly at being solid defensively, and we had a lot of continuity with the back four.

"It didn't change very often, myself, Michael Duff, John McGreal, Mo Camara, and Gary Cahill came in on loan later on.

"We were all injury-free for most of the season, the odd game there was a little bit of alternation in who played at right back, sometimes myself or Duffo, but generally the continuity was there.

"We had good players in midfield protecting us as well, with Micah Hyde, who did their fair share of defensive work."