Belfast Telegraph

Done deal: Oxford United confirm Mark Sykes signing after '25 minute' negotiations

By Gareth Hanna

Oxford United have confirmed the signing of Glenavon midfielder Mark Sykes.

The 21-year-old joins after the League One side made a late swoop to hijack Port Vale's move. Negotiations were swift and the deal was completed when Sykes completed a medical at his new club on Wednesday morning.

Sykes, of course, joins up with fellow Irish League graduate Gavin Whyte, whose six goals since his summer move helped convince the U's to take a punt on another Danske Bank Premiership star.

“I’m really excited to have got things sorted out," he told his new club's website.

"Obviously it is a step up to full time football but I have played over 140 games in competitive men’s football and have learned so much in that time. I was really impressed by the Manager at Oxford, by the plans the club have and I can’t wait to get started.”

Sykes had been deep in discussions with League Two strugglers Port Vale before Oxford made a belated move to agree a deal, sanctioned by chairman Sumrith ‘Tiger’ Thanakarnjanasuth, that was announced by Glenavon on New Year's Eve.

“We heard it was done, but we made a last phone call," said Robinson. “We were told if we don’t do it in the next 24 hours he will be gone.

“Tiger was over (in the UK) thankfully. We had a staff meeting and Tiger just said ‘just go and do a deal’.

“We made one call and the deal was done in 25 minutes.”

Sykes could make his Oxford debut at Brentford in the FA Cup on Saturday. Current club favourite Whyte assured U's supporters that they're in for a treat when they see the NI U21 international take to the pitch.

“I think the Oxford fans are going to like watching him," he told the Oxford United website. "He plays with a lot of freedom, makes things happen and I think is a really good player. I spoke to him and told him what a great club this is and if that played a part in his decision then great because I know he will be a great signing for us.”

Oxford are currently 22nd in League One but are just two points off 18th in a tightly-packed table.

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