Belfast Telegraph

Gavin Whyte's God-given talent means winger will shine for Northern Ireland, predicts Boyce

 

By Paul Ferguson

Liam Boyce is convinced his fellow former Irish League pal Gavin Whyte has all the attributes to follow in the footsteps of Keith Gillespie and become a top-class winger for Northern Ireland.

Whyte, who scored on his senior international debut last month, impressed during his second-half cameo role against Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo on Monday night, but was guilty of missing a glorious chance to equalise when he struck the post from close range, and then in the dying minutes of the game, the 22-year old saw his shot rebound off the post again.

Boyce, though, argues the fact that Whyte, having only been in the full-time game a matter of three months after joining Oxford United from Crusaders in July, is being chosen ahead of more seasoned professional players on the bench to come on, and then that he is able to get into goalscoring opportunities against the quality of Bosnia proves he is an exciting prospect that will only get better.

"It's just one of those chances you have to score, but nine times out of 10 he's going to put it in the back of the net," conceded ex-Cliftonville hotshot Boyce.

"That's the way he scored his first goal (against Israel) - the same way - coming onto it and scoring.

"It just didn't go in for him, but I thought Gavin did really well.

"He was getting at his full-back and he hit the post again late on when he drilled one across.

"On another day it deflects in. It was just one of those nights - it didn't seem to go in for us."

It's been a meteoric rise for Whyte since he arrived at the Kassam Stadium, with top performances for Oxford United, his international selection and the fact his club boss Karl Robinson even entered into a public spat with Michael O'Neill over his inclusion in the Northern Ireland squad as he was keen to utilise him in a vital league game.

"He has a God-given talent of pace that strikes fear into anyone," stated the 27-year old from Belfast.

"Not only that, he is brilliant on the ball, his first touch is good and he wants to take the ball on and drive at defenders.

"He doesn't even wait for an overlap, he wants to drive at them.

"That's what you want to see in a winger, taking people on, causing problems, getting balls in the box and taking shots. That's what Gavin does."

Striker Boyce, chosen ahead of Josh Magennis against Bosnia in attack, was another solid performer on a night when Northern Ireland were once again severely punished for being wasteful in front of goal.

His hold-up play and movement were particularly good, offering midfielders such as George Saville - who was guilty of missing chances - the opportunity to race forward into goalscoring positions.

Boyce, scorer of seven goals this season for Burton Albion, hopes he has done enough to warrant another start in next month's high-profile friendly against the Republic of Ireland.

He added: "We have good strikers, so if you want to play in the big and important games you need to perform in these competitions (Nations League) and show Michael that you can do it at this level.

"That's the only way you can have an impact.

"I've been playing well for my club, scored seven goals and I've also set up a couple, so I just need to keep it going and you never know what will happen."

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