Belfast Telegraph

Why GAWA's reaction means the world to Gavin Whyte and how his mum missed Northern Ireland debut goal

As far as dream international debuts go, scoring with your first touch isn't bad.

It really was that good for former Crusaders winger Gavin Whyte, who netted just two minutes after coming on for Northern Ireland at home to Israel on Tuesday evening.

Whyte, who now plays for League One side Oxford United, was on hand to slam home a 65th minute rebound just 106 seconds after coming off the bench.

Understandably, the Green and White Army responded almost immediately by singing Whyte's name - a surreal experience at Windsor Park for a former Crue.

Here he is, your new Northern Ireland hero Gavin Whyte. 🔴⚫➡💚⚪ The former Crusaders winger is not used to fans at Windsor...

Posted by Belfast Telegraph Sport on Tuesday, September 11, 2018

"It was amazing," he smiled. "I've never been to Windsor Park and the fans have been singing my name. They've been giving me abuse but it was incredible - it really was.

"It will give me a bit of confidence. Part of my game is to score goals and I'll try and continue that with my club. I don't think I'll sleep - it's a dream come true."

As the ball was hitting the net, it all hadn't quite become reality quite yet for Gavin's biggest fan, with his mum on a long-haul flight and missing out on all the drama.

"My mum's away to America today so I don't even think she'll know that I've scored," he laughed. "When I tell her she'll be over the moon.

"She'll be buzzing. She's my biggest fan so it will be nice to tell her."

Whyte has already netted three times for new club Oxford United this season but he's determined not to let up with the next international break arriving next month.

"I want to go back to my club now and impress Michael (O'Neill)," he said. "I want to be a squad player here now - I don't want to be a late addition. I want to be on the sheet and that what's I'm going to try and do.

"I think I made the right choice going to the club I'm at now. If I hadn't picked the right club, I wouldn't be where I am now."

If impressing O'Neill is the key goal - it's so far so good. The NI boss was full of praise for his new goal-scorer.

 “I was delighted for him. It is a great start for him," the boss told Sky Sports.

“He has come into this squad and he has made an impact on training. And you saw the reaction of the players and the crowd when he scored.

“I have watched Gavin for a number of years and you always saw real talent. You wished he would get the opportunity of full-time football and he got it. He is stronger and quicker and scored three goals in six games for Oxford.

“Gavin has a knack of scoring from wide positions. He was consistently in double figures for Crusaders.

“We have had to work very hard on where we get our players from. We had three players tonight who could have represented the U21s in Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Jamal Lewis and Gavin.

“What they have given is a bit of freshness to the squad which is important.”

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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