Mark Sykes made available for loan but Oxford United boss predicts a bright future at the club
Oxford United boss Karl Robinson has stressed that Mark Sykes' career at the club is far from over after the former Glenavon midfielder was made available for a loan move.
The 22-year-old joined the League One club in January and made an instant impact, with seven league starts in the second half of the 18/19 season.
However, manager Karl Robinson bolstered his squad with the summer signings of George Thorne on loan from Derby County and Ben Woodburn on loan from Liverpool. Coupled with a return to fitness for Shandon Baptiste, the moves have limited Sykes to just one appearance for far this season.
That was in the League Cup win over Peterborough United, with the Northern Ireland U21 international making the bench for only two of the side's four league ties so far.
Robinson is hoping that Sykes can drop down just one division for half of the season before making a return to regular action at the Kassam Stadium.
“Sykesy needs to go and play some minutes," Robinson told the Oxford Mail.
“I think while we have all these players at the moment there’s no point having an investment being a substitute.
“We feel playing in League Two hopefully will allow us to grow that and hopefully bring him back in January to fight for his place.
“We’ve got Cameron Brannagan who is on fire in that position. Ben Woodburn and Jamie Hanson can play in there, even Tariqe (Fosu). Shandon’s coming back now as well, so we’ve got a lot of players who can play in that position.
“Right now they’re a little bit ahead of him in my mind. Maybe in somebody else’s mind that might be a crazy decision, but I’m paid to make those decisions.”
Sykes' displays last season had earned him a first call-up to Michael O'Neill's senior Northern Ireland squad in the summer.
As a result, he was late to start pre-season, leading to him playing catch-up on his team-mates.
Robinson, however, says the step down could lead to a significant step up in Sykes' game.
“I remember when I was at Charlton we did it with Karlan Ahearne-Grant, who went out and scored loads of goals for Crawley," he said.
“He came back to Charlton and became the main man. Sometimes people see going out on loan as the end of a player. It’s certainly not, he’s one for the future and is one we’re looking forward to developing.”
Meanwhile, Sykes' old side Glenavon have signed winger Kyle Beggs from Ballyclare Comrades.
Belfast Telegraph Digital