Linfield hero Joel Cooper has revealed he is determined to show his worth at the next level after the Blues agreed a fee with Oxford United for the winger.
The Belfast Telegraph understands that Cooper is set to discuss personal terms in the coming days and that the move is expected to be completed this week, making the 24-year-old the third Irish League star to join Oxford in the last three years.
The transfer offers the former Northern Ireland under-21 ace a golden chance across the water after helping deliver two league titles in two seasons for David Healy's men.
"I am looking forward to getting the deal across the line and can't wait to make the move to Oxford United to repay the faith they have shown in me," said Cooper.
"It would be a step up to another level but if the deal goes through, I feel I can prove myself at that level.
"I have worked hard to get where I am and that hard work will never stop in my aim to be the best I can be for my team. I feel I have improved as a player since joining Linfield and I must thank the manager David Healy, the staff and my team-mates for that and also the fans."
Cooper had been due to play for Linfield in their friendly at home to League of Ireland side Bohemians last night but was pulled out of the game after the Windsor outfit accepted an offer from Oxford in the afternoon.
Already there is a sense of excitement at Oxford with Cooper primed to follow in the footsteps of Gavin Whyte and Mark Sykes.
Just like that!— BBC SPORT NI (@BBCSPORTNI) September 14, 2016
Shades of Cantona as Glenavon's Joel Cooper hits superb goal in Irish Premiership pic.twitter.com/T4eQYdMKpo
Winger Whyte left Crusaders for the Kassam Stadium in 2018 and became a big favourite with the fans prior to moving to Championship club Cardiff, while midfielder Sykes transferred from Glenavon last year and scored for Oxford in their play-off final defeat by Wycombe at Wembley earlier this month.
“Gavin and Mark have gone to Oxford and shown that there is real quality in the Irish League and I want to follow in their footsteps and do well for the club. I believe I can do that,” added Cooper, whose ultimate aim would be to follow Whyte and Sykes into the senior Northern Ireland squad.
Back in 2016, then international boss Michael O’Neill saw enough of Cooper at Glenavon to bring him along to a training camp in France ahead of the European Championship finals.
Cooper has been sensational for the Blues since departing Glenavon in 2018 and has flourished under the guidance of manager Healy.
He was instrumental in Linfield’s title glory in 2019 and, even though this season was truncated due to the coronavirus pandemic, he still played 42 games, scored 13 goals and provided 17 assists in an outstanding campaign as the Blues retained their crown on a points per game basis.
Since starting out at Ballyclare Comrades, Cooper has always been viewed as an exciting talent and, while Linfield supporters will be gutted to see him go, they will wish him all the best on what is a brilliant move made possible by his close friend and advisor Bill Peden, plus agents Stephen Whelan and Colin Murdock.
Meanwhile, the Blues beat Bohemians 3-0 last night thanks to an own goal and headers from Mark Stafford and Ethan Boyle in their first game since March.