Belfast Telegraph

Gavin Whyte's displays convinced us to sign 'sensational' Sykes, says Oxford boss

Mark Sykes
Mark Sykes
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Oxford United manager Karl Robinson says that the success of summer signing Gavin Whyte gave his club the confidence to take a punt on another of the Irish League's top talents.

Former Crusaders star Whyte is joined at the League One side by Glenavon midfielder Mark Sykes, who has finalised his move after a medical on Wednesday morning.


Robinson has revealed that it was Whyte's form for the U's since his summer transfer (six goals to date), coupled with Sykes' displays on the international stage, that convinced him to swoop in.

“(Whyte's form) gives us confidence," he told the Oxford Mail.

“People will argue that Sykes was ahead of Gavin Whyte when we signed him. We watched him play for Northern Ireland (U21s) against Spain and he was sensational.”

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.”

Glenavon have also lost Ben Doherty, who played central midfield and left back during his short-term loan spell. Doherty has joined Coleraine with Ciaron Harkin going the opposite direction to Derry City.

It is expected that the Lurgan Blues will recall Robbie Norton from his loan spell at Warrenpoint Town.

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