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'The right choice': Joel Cooper's move to Oxford United confirmed as Linfield star makes League One switch



Joel Cooper

Joel Cooper

@INPHO/Brian Little

Joel Cooper

Linfield winger Joel Cooper has become the latest Irish League star to move into professional football with Oxford United.

The 24-year-old will move to the U's for an undisclosed fee, signing a three year deal when the transfer window opens next week.

He follows in the footsteps of Gavin Whyte and Mark Sykes, who moved to the League One club from Crusaders and Glenavon respectively in recent seasons.

Whyte made an instant impact with seven goals in his only season at the club, soon snapped up by Championship side Cardiff City for a fee believed to be around £2m.

Sykes, too, has made a promising start to life in England, becoming a key player for Karl Robinson's side. He even scored in the recent play-off final at Wembley, although his goal wasn't enough to prevent Wycombe Wanderers from sealing a 2-1 win and promotion.

It's little wonder, then, that the boss has taken another dive across the Irish Sea for his latest recruit, who he labelled a 'real talent'.

"He has pace and creates chances for others as well as scoring so it’s an exciting signing," Robinson continued.

"People talk about the step up to full time football but we have shown with Gavin and Mark that players can make that step provided they have the right help and the right mentality and it is great to have Joel with us when we report back for pre-season.”

Cooper stepped up to the Danske Bank Premiership back in 2015 when he joined Glenavon from Ballyclare Comrades and after an eye-catching first season in the top flight he was brought to Euro 2016 to aid the Northern Ireland squad in training.

His progress slowed over the following couple of seasons, until a move to Linfield two years ago sparked the winger back into top form, peaking in the most recent campaign when he scored 13 goals and made 17 assists.

"Linfield have been brilliant," he said. "It was a big step to move from Glenavon but it was probably the best thing I've done. Through the whole process of moving on to Oxford, they've been brilliant. Windsor is a great place to play and I would recommend it to anybody.

"Oxford is a great club with ambitions to progress. The Northern Ireland lads that have come over have done really well here and it seems to be a good place to live as well.

"Seeing what those boys have done makes it more comfortable to come here to a club where you know someone in Sykesy and where I know they were both looked after really well. Hopefully I'll be looked after in the same way.

"The standard's very good. It's a lot more athletic that what I've been used to. Our league in Northern Ireland is quite physical, more rough and tumble, but I hope to make a mark on (League One)."

Belfast Telegraph