Stuart Dallas is my inspiration to reach professional ranks, says Crusaders star Gavin Whyte
Crusaders goal hero Gavin Whyte has revealed that he views former Seaview sensation Stuart Dallas as an inspiration in his bid to earn a move across the water.
Whyte has been in spectacular form this season, leading many observers to suggest he could be the next Irish League player to make the grade in professional football.
He leads the scoring charts in the Danske Bank Premiership with 21 goals and has played a massive role in the Crues topping the table with a number of dazzling displays.
Those performances have earned him a call into Ian Baraclough's Northern Ireland under-21 squad for vital European Championship qualifiers at home to Spain tomorrow at Shamrock Park, where there will be scouts aplenty, and against Iceland on Monday at the Coleraine Showgrounds.
Along with Glenavon's Mark Sykes and Bobby Burns, plus Coleraine duo Jamie McGonigle and Ciaron Harkin, Smyth is one of five Irish League players in the panel. Gareth McAuley, Liam Boyce and Paul Smyth are among the players who have made the jump from part-time football to the professional game, but the man who resonates most with Whyte is Dallas.
After impressing at Crusaders, Dallas moved to Brentford before joining Leeds and is a Northern Ireland regular.
"I see a player like Stuart Dallas as an inspiration," said 22-year-old Whyte.
"Everyone talks about Stuart at the Crues and what he has achieved. Some people have said to me that I could follow in his footsteps. He has been brilliant going to Brentford and then he got his big move to Leeds, so that is inspiring.
"As a kid I always wanted to play in England or Scotland and in full-time football. I'm happy playing at Crusaders because I'm enjoying it there, but I would like to get the chance to go across the water. We'll see what happens, I'll keep working and try and get that opportunity.
"My first season with Crusaders was really good but I think this has been the best so far. I put it down to confidence. I'm training hard, I'm playing every week and want to score goals.
"It's a boost to be in the under-21s. When I didn't get the call in the last few games it was disappointing but I've been playing well and scoring goals and I'm back in now.
"It is good to be involved in this game. There will probably be lots of scouts there and you never know who is watching."
Whyte is honest enough to admit that when he first started to shine in the Crusaders team all the plaudits had a negative impact on him. Experience has taught him how to deal with praise coming his way.
He said: "If people talk about me, that's great, but I try not to think about it now.
"In my first and second years at Crusaders there was loads of talk about me and it got into my head and I lost confidence. Now I just want to work hard and focus on my football."
Northern Ireland enter tomorrow's game with the Spanish knowing victory will take them top of their group with four games left and in a fantastic position to qualify for next year's finals.