Belfast Telegraph

Sykes is ready to flourish with Oxford, says old boss Hamilton

 

Mark Sykes
Mark Sykes

By Graham Luney

Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton has backed Mark Sykes to shine at a higher level after the midfielder joined Oxford United.

The 21-year-old joins after the League One side made a late swoop to hijack Port Vale's move.

Sykes 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.

"Mark deserves his chance," said Hamilton. "He's been a great servant. He's been a tremendous player in the Irish League, he's entertained everyone, not just our fans. He's someone that, if he keeps his head down and works hard and listens to the coaches over there, he's only going to get better with full-time training."

Negotiations were swift and the deal was finalised when Sykes completed a medical yesterday.

"I'm really excited," he told his new club's website. "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 in discussions with League Two strugglers Port Vale before Oxford made a belated move, sanctioned by chairman Sumrith 'Tiger' Thanakarnjanasuth, that was announced by Glenavon on New Year's Eve.

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 Under-21 international take to the pitch.

"Oxford fans are going to like watching him," he told the Oxford United website. "He plays with 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."

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

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