By Mark Willis. Last Updated: January 1, 1970 1:00am
WITH England successfully securing their passage to the World Cup finals, the race is now on for the country's fringe players to stake a claim for Sven Goran Eriksson's final squad. Trevor Sinclair is even prepared to move clubs in order to fulfill his potential and also, he claims, solve the seemingly eternal left-sided problem.
With the Hammers faltering under new management, Sinclair has become discontent in East London and has handed in a transfer request in a bid to achieve his ambitions. The West Ham winger was a member of the squad that assembled to draw with Greece last Saturday, but he has yet to don the three lions for the full national side.
With a bevy of players currently competing for England's troublesome left flank, Opta took a close look at those currently ahead of Sinclair in the pecking order in a bid to assess the former QPR star's chances of making the break.
Nick Barmby has been a regular starter under Eriksson, but disappointed against the Greeks at Old Trafford, failing to embark upon a single dribble during a largely disjointed first half. Needless to say, he did not appear for the second period.
However, the archives show that Barmby has proven more penetrative with his runs than the likes of Steve McManaman and the newly tested Owen Hargreaves. The Liverpool midfielder has beaten his man 71% of the time since the start of World Cup 98 - seven percentage points better than the Real Madrid maestro - while Hargreaves completed just half of his forward forays during his two recent appearances.
But Emile Heskey has flourished when pulled out wide and has eluded his marker 75% of the time when employed on the left flank. The predominantly right-footed Sinclair may have to improve his domestic form in order to oust the robust striker from this position, as his dribble success rate is currently one percentage point below the Premiership average (69%).
He will also need to improve his performance in front of goal if he is to aspire to gain consistent international consideration from the Swede. Sinclair has failed to score this term and has only hit the target with a third of his efforts, while the trio of McManaman, Barmby and Heskey have all tested the 'keeper with at least 40% of their shots in international games since the start of World Cup 98.
When they have not been seeking to bust the net themselves, the Liverpool connection have been instrumental in attempting to create opportunities for their colleagues. Barmby has weighed in with two goal assists since June 1998 and registered an impressive 36% cross completion rate - twice the ratio Sinclair has mustered for West Ham this season.
McManaman has set up one goal and whipped over more crosses than any of the other candidates, while Heskey was accredited with an assist in Athens during the summer, driving the ball into Paul Scholes' path for the opener. With the Hammers struggling to find any sort of consistency, Sinclair has failed to directly or indirectly boost the team's paltry four-goal tally, however he did craft three goals last term with his strong running, often from a wing-back position.
A move to another club, potentially Sunderland, could see the pacy winger live up to his own self-billing. Let's not forget that in 1999-2000 under Harry Redknapp, Sinclair contributed an impressive tally of eight goal assists and netted seven times, so it is possible that he can thrive again under a fresh challenge and make the grade.
However, he could face fresh competition from Blackburn striker Matt Jansen who advertised his services this week, stating: "When you look around, there are not many natural left-footers so I do feel I could help England." The former Crystal Palace starlet has scored once and also set up a goal this season, while completing just 58% of his dribbles - 10 percentage points fewer than Sinclair. But at just 23-years of age, Jansen still has time on his side.
With Hargreaves possibly lacking the experience for a stage such as the World Cup and McManaman and Barmby looking jaded in recent outings, a timely move could easily propel Sinclair into the limelight. But his form needs to reach international standard on a consistent level before he can realistically provide the tonic for Eriksson's one major headache.