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Mark Sykes is the best prospect in Ireland, says Glenavon coach

Glenavon have the best young footballer in Ireland in the middle of their midfield, according to assistant manager Paul Millar.

But that's unlikely to be true for long as Mark Sykes is widely expected to be the next Irish League player to be exported into the full-time ranks across the water. He could even become a team-mate of Northern Ireland star Gavin Whyte at Oxford United, if the latest rumours are to be believed.

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His silky skills in a blue shirt could form a fairly lengthy highlight reel of their own and this season, he's added a couple of notable goals as well. He lashed home a stunning overhead kick for the Lurgan Blues against Crusaders earlier this season and was also the man to seal a 1-0 win over Slovakia for Northern Ireland U21s in their final qualifying match at Windsor Park.

As with Whyte at Crusaders last season, it's a case of when, rather than if Sykes gets his big move. Some reports suggest he's set to leave in the January window while there's no doubt deferring the inevitable until the summer would be a boost to Glenavon's Danske Bank Premiership campaign.

For coach Millar, the club should just enjoy Sykes' undoubted talent while they still can.

"Mark Sykes is the best young player in Ireland and, on top of that, he's a real smashing fella," he said. "I love him. He can head, he's two feet, can dribble, pass, score goals and he gets lumps kicked out of him every week.

"Some of the tackles he receives are barbaric and I believe some of the referees in our league need to protect the players who can play. The game has changed and players have a lot more respect for their fellow pros and managers need to look at themselves as well.

"I don't need to tell referees who the better players are and if they are targeted they can nail that early. But Sykesy for me has everything from physique to skill and his consistency levels now are through the roof."

Glenavon travel to take on Ballymena United tonight (Friday - kick-off 7.45pm).

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