Belfast Telegraph

Why Mark Sykes owes his Oxford move to Gavin Whyte and a Frankie & Benny's

Mark Sykes' move to Oxford United was pushed forward by Gavin Whyte (inset) over a Frankie & Benny's.
Mark Sykes' move to Oxford United was pushed forward by Gavin Whyte (inset) over a Frankie & Benny's.

By Paul Ferguson

New Northern Ireland recruit Mark Sykes owes his Oxford United career to pal Gavin Whyte.

If it weren't for a timely lunchtime chat between Oxford winger Whyte and his boss Karl Robinson, former Glenavon ace Sykes would likely be playing his club football in League Two with struggling Port Vale.

Attacking midfielder Sykes (21), was all set to join the Potteries side during the last January window, after terms had all but been agreed, before ex-Crusaders star Whyte intervened and helped move the Belfast lad up a division.

Sykes has gone on to make nine appearances for Oxford and international chief Michael O'Neill has called him up into his senior squad for the Euro 2020 qualifiers against Estonia and Belarus after the Mourneview Park favourite excelled during training in Manchester over the last three weeks.

"Its been great having Sykesy alongside me at the club since January," says Whyte, who hopes to win his fifth cap against Estonia in Tallinn on Saturday night.

"We've been mates for a long time and I was delighted to see him get the move he deserved after doing so well for Glenavon.

"I was actually with people from the club in Frankie & Benny's beside our stadium when Port Vale agreed a deal with Glenavon and I told the manager and chairman they should definitely try to sign him.

"I rang Sykesy straight away and told him to hold off if he could. He did just that, signed for Oxford, and I'm buzzing for him because he has done really well since coming to the club."

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