Belfast Telegraph

Whyte hot and ready

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill believes winger Gavin Whyte is ready to step up to senior international football just two months after leaving Crusaders for Oxford United.

Ahead of tonight's friendly at home to Israel at Windsor Park (7.45pm), top defender Jonny Evans concurred with his boss, revealing the 22-year old ex-Seaview star has shone in training since the players joined up last week.

While Whyte was on Northern Ireland's tour of Central America, he didn't feature against Panama or Costa Rica and was an unused substitute for Saturday's 2-1 home defeat to Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Nations League, but if the praise lavished on him by O'Neill and Evans on the eve of the Israel encounter is anything to go by, he is set to make his senior debut tonight.

O'Neill said: "Gavin's trained really well. Far better than he did in the summer. I already see a lot of development with him going into full-time football and where he is now.

"Whether he gets the opportunity against Israel, we'll see, but I do feel we have another player now who very soon is going to be a full international player.

"It's noticeable in training on the summer tour he looked just a little bit timid, a little bit light. He doesn't look like that now, he looks sharp, real quality, and it's been a real bonus having him in."

Leicester City star Evans added: "In the one or two training sessions before the Bosnia game you could see he's got a real intelligence, and he's already scored goals for Oxford.

"He's had to bide his time and was maybe in and out at the start, but he's scoring goals, playing well and straight away you can see the difference in his attitude and the belief in his game. Hopefully he can keep improving, he's definitely got the ability and, as Michael said, he's pushing for a spot in the team."

Belfast Telegraph

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