Belfast Telegraph

Gavin Whyte keen to start in the Netherlands after impressive cameo against Germany

Gavin Whyte
Gavin Whyte

By Paul Ferguson

Northern Ireland wing wizard Gavin Whyte hopes his impressive high-energy cameo against Germany last month will encourage boss Michael O'Neill to give him a chance to shine from the start when the men in green tackle the Netherlands tomorrow night in Rotterdam.

Cardiff new boy Whyte was bitterly disappointed to only make a substitute appearance when Northern Ireland put up a courageous battle against Die Mannschaft.

It's a sign of Whyte's growing confidence and ambition in the professional ranks as only 16 months ago, the 24-year-old was lining out for Crusaders at H&W Welders but since then he has excelled at Oxford United, made an impression on the international scene and jumped from League One to the Championship.

Now, he wants to play a major role in a stunning upset for Northern Ireland which would keep them in Euro 2020 qualifying contention.

"This will probably be one of the hardest games I've played so far in my career," conceded Whyte.

"You play football to test yourself and play these big teams in front of these crowds in these competitions, so it's something I'm looking forward to.

"It was obviously disappointing not lining out against Germany, but it's the manager's decision and you have to abide by it.

"I felt confident going on. He told me, 'Just get the ball and do your normal thing' and I didn't actually look at it as if it was a Germany game.

"I looked at it as if it was a normal game. I just wanted to get the ball as much as I could and do something with it. I thought I did alright.

"I obviously wanted to play the full game where I could show the fans what I'm really made of. I wanted more minutes, but I thought I did alright.

"Whether I start or not this time, I'll try to do my best for the team."

While Whyte is trying to cement his place in the side, St Johnstone's Dundonald-born winger Matty Kennedy is simply enjoying his first taste of senior international football.

Having spent most of his childhood in Scotland after his native Scottish parents moved home from Northern Ireland, Kennedy turned out for the SFA's under-age teams.

But when manager O'Neill dangled the carrot of international football with Northern Ireland in front of him, the 25-year-old grasped it.

"I got a call from Michael (last month) but the paperwork took far longer than we expected," said Kennedy, who admitted he consulted his family before committing to Northern Ireland. "We started it at the end of last season and it was 10 days or so ago it came through.

"I'm now delighted to be here. There are a lot of good players here. I want to get to know the lads properly first, learn more about international football, and then if I get the nod at some point hopefully I can create chances for the team."

Kennedy is unlikely to feature against the Dutch but has his eye on the friendly with the Czech Republic on Monday in Prague for his international debut.

He added: "Aye, straight in against one of the best teams in the world. It'd be a great honour to put the jersey on.

"It's going to be difficult for me to get a chance as it's a massive game but I'll be prepared and if it comes in the next game then I'll be ready again. It's a friendly so hopefully Michael will give me a chance."

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