I’m moving on from the night I lost control: Drink-driving, urinating in a police car and racially abusing an officer – a shocking episode that haunts Trevor Sinclair
Trevor Sinclair still struggles to understand it now. ‘Just a bad night, a terrible night when I lost control,’ he says.
Close to 12 months have passed since an abusive comment in a restaurant by a woman he didn’t know triggered a chain of events which saw the former England winger banned from driving and working in an Oxfam rather than at the BBC, where he had been winning rave reviews for punditry as sharp as his dress sense.
The grim details, which included Sinclair urinating in the back of a police car, still deeply embarrass him. For reasons unknown to Sinclair, who admits he’d had too much to drink, he reacted badly to the remark ‘little chocolate man’, which was accompanied by a patronising pat on the head.
Trevor Sinclair is still deeply embarrassed by the mistakes he made almost a year ago
The 45-year-old accepted his punishment rather than drag it out through the courts
‘I went home and just thought, “I’m not having that”. So I got my son to call the police, but then I started getting cold feet. I got a bad feeling and I panicked. I needed to get away and I should have gone on my bike. Stupidly, I got in my car.’
While driving through the centre of Lytham, things took a turn for the worse. ‘A lady got out of a taxi. My car was electric and she didn’t hear it and ran in front of me. I braked and the last rotation before I stopped struck her. Fortunately she wasn’t badly injured.’
Sinclair was sentenced to 150 hours’ community service and worked in an Oxfam shop in Lytham just yards from where he committed his offences
Sinclair at court with his wife Natalie, left. The pair are pictured right in 2015 at a fundraiser
Police arrived quickly. ‘I told them I’d had a drink and they put me in the back of the car. I was there a long, long time. I banged on the window to tell them I needed the toilet but they wouldn’t listen. I don’t want to blame them for anything — I was the one who lost control and if I hadn’t done so, then none of this happens.’
Sinclair, 45, was eventually handcuffed and put into the back of a van. It was at this moment he is said to have racially abused a white officer, calling him a ‘white c***’. Sinclair later pleaded guilty to racially aggravated harassment along with drink-driving.
He is limited in what he can say and explains: ‘The choice was to accept it and get it dealt with quickly by magistrates, or I could challenge it and go to Crown Court, have the big trial, put my family through more of it.’ He went for the former.
Sinclair’s mother, who passed away 11 years ago, was white, as are many of his closest childhood friends and their families, with whom he often holidays. ‘Facing them was difficult,’ he recalls.
Sinclair working as a BBC pundit with Paul Scholes (left) and Danny Murphy (centre)
Sinclair with his wife Natalie and his three sons during a family holiday
Sinclair is also a patron for the charity Show Racism the Red Card. ‘I just thought, people know me, they can make their own minds up. Protecting my family was the main thing.’
The whole incident seems out of character. Sinclair is a family man, happily married, father to four boys and also a grandfather. A Manchester lad, he shunned the bright lights of his hometown for the tranquil, seaside surroundings of Lytham, close to where it all began at Blackpool.
‘I went for some toxicology tests because I thought I may have had a drink spiked,’ he says. ‘I couldn’t work it out. I saw a counsellor who suggested I may have unresolved issues from my mum’s death. The main thing for me is my control, which I’ve tried to adjust when I go out. Be a bit more sensible.’
Sinclair is thankful for the support of wife Natalie, his family and the public. He was given 150 hours’ community service and threw himself into the task at the charity shop yards from where the incident happened.
Sinclair is hugely grateful for the support of his wife and family during the tough time
The former England international has retained his humour during the ordeal
‘I was told to be careful and stay in the back of the store because the paparazzi would come,’ he remembers. ‘I’m not that kind of character. I love speaking to people and the locals were great with me, especially the older people, because I guess they have a bit more experience of life and know people make mistakes.’
A man who represented his country and the likes of West Ham and Manchester City on the till in Oxfam? ‘And I loved every minute,’ he says. ‘You’ve got people who’ve lost their partners and don’t really speak to anyone else. You have a responsibility to give them a nice five or 10 minutes.’
Sinclair retained his humour: ‘One day I was pricing up Lego, tons of it. It was painful. You’ve got to go online to find out how much each bit is.
‘Someone came in who was interested in some of it. We agreed on a price for it all and I saved myself a day’s work. If the manager wasn’t happy with how much I’d charged I’d have paid the difference myself!’
Sinclair made the best of his situation and threw himself into the community service
Not that it was without perks. ‘Marks and Spencer send a lot of stock, so I had the pick of the new socks!’ he adds.
Sinclair extended his stay for another month. ‘Just to say thank you,’ he explains. ‘They were really welcoming and not judgmental at all.’
There are others he wishes to thank. ‘The football family have been amazing. Former team-mates, managers, Gordon Taylor and Micky Bennett at the PFA — brilliant.’
After his conviction, and the damaging headlines that came with it, the BBC announced they had no plans to use Sinclair again. That gave him more time with his family and at the Pro Direct Academy Lancashire he set up in 2017 with former Blackpool and Everton midfielder Jamie Milligan.
We are speaking in the clubhouse of Fylde Rugby Club, where former England rugby captain Bill Beaumont looks down at us from pictures on the walls and from where the academy operates.
‘We recruit players who have been released, try to stop them falling out of love with the game,’ Sinclair explains. ‘Some of them are at clubs 10 years and then just discarded. The duty of care at some clubs is poor.’
The first intake included one of Sinclair’s sons, 17-year-old Isaac, who was freed by Blackpool. ‘Two days after what happened I was coaching them,’ Sinclair recalls. ‘It’s all over the papers and I’m supposed to be a role model. I told them I’d let them down, let myself down; that I don’t want them to remember me for this, but hopefully for the support I’ve given them when they graduate.’
He finds coaching richly rewarding and is starting to rebuild his career after a dark time
The course is full-time and boys and girls leave with a BTEC qualification. Recently, the group thrashed a Rochdale side and were narrowly defeated by one of Liverpool’s young teams.
‘It’s incredibly rewarding to see the progress they have made,’ says Sinclair. ‘We’ve got three lads in England trials, seven or eight in the Lancashire side.’
Does he want to return to punditry? ‘Look, it’s difficult for the BBC,’ he says. ‘I’ve not rushed into anything. They’re in talks with my representatives so we’ll see what happens. I’m doing a little bit for Yahoo which I’ve enjoyed.’
Small steps. Sinclair, who has a desire to go into management, is back on social media but do not expect any mickey-taking.
‘I’ve blocked a million United fans,’ he jokes. ‘Sometimes it can get a bit lively but I’m not going to do that because you get people after you.’
Sinclair wants to tell people that drink driving is ‘disgusting’ and he regrets his actions
His appetite for talking about the game remains. ‘I loved the World Cup. Gareth Southgate and I used to sit next to each other on the coach and chew each other’s ears off about football. I was delighted for him.
‘At United, Jose needs backing. I always look at the human part. He lost his dad not long ago — it takes a lot to get over.’
Sinclair still has a five-day drink drive awareness course to complete and seven months of his ban remaining, although he will miss riding his bike. ‘My legs are massive,’ he jokes.
Before I give him a lift home I ask if he was writing up this interview, what he would want to get across. ‘Drink driving is a disgusting thing to do,’ he replies. ‘I’m really disappointed in my actions and I’m blessed nobody was hurt.’
He pauses, before adding: ‘I’m still me and I haven’t been under a rock. I’ve let people down but I’ve got my health and my family, which are the two most important things in life.’