Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Gavin Whyte reveals mum's tears over drunken sex act in Belfast street


Gavin Whyte
Gavin Whyte

By Russell Stoddart

Shamed Northern Ireland star Gavin Whyte has revealed he received a police caution over his shocking lewd behaviour which was seen by millions on social media.

The 23-year-old, who now plays for English League One side Oxford United, has also admitted he feared his drunken antics on camera in Belfast city centre would wreck his career.

In a frank and emotional interview with Sunday Life, Whyte has also told of the anguish his behaviour caused his mum Patricia, and says he regrets unacceptable posts on social media as a teenager.

"It was a huge mistake," he said of the lurid video. "I'd never done anything like that before, it's not who I am."

The ex-Crusaders winger was riding the crest of a wave after his move to Oxford in the summer when a moment of madness caught on camera turned his world upside down.

Whyte had been filmed with a friend performing a lewd act in a Belfast street while on a drunken night out.

A video of the incident taken by one of his friends was widely shared on social media and sparked a chain of events that Whyte admits led to the worst time of his life.

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Gavin Whyte

Speaking to Sunday Life at Oxford's plush training complex on the outskirts of the university city, he said: "I had been out with six or seven of the mates I've grown up with. At the time it was just a bit of banter and I didn't think much of it. It was a drink thing. I had never done anything like it and don't know why I did it then.

"Of course, it was a huge mistake. That is not the guy I am. When you are in the public eye you are a role model. I should have known that."

Whyte went home and slept it off and had no idea the video would end up on social media.

Now the Belfast man speaks candidly about the impact it had on the people closest to him.

"I was flying back to England on the Monday night with my Oxford and Northern Ireland team-mate Mark Sykes," he said.

"My phone was dead but Mark had switched his on as we left the plane and there was the video posted on a group chat that had been sent to him by one of his mates. Mark showed it to me. I asked him if the video would be widely seen and he said it would be. My heart sank and I didn't know what to do.

"The first thing I did was ring my mum (Patricia). After I told her what happened she was crying and worried sick. She told me to keep my head up, it would pass over and everything would eventually be alright.

"Mum is very supportive and we are very close. She always wants the best for me. I had her over just a couple of weeks earlier. She had cooked my Christmas dinner and did all the cleaning. She stayed for over a week. I felt I had let her down."

Michael O’Neill (Tim Goode/PA)

Gavin had the support of his mum, but feared for his career.

He felt sick at the thought of having to make two more calls. One was to his club manager, Karl Robinson, and the other was to Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill.

"It was a sleepless night before I made that call," said Whyte, referring to his chat with O'Neill. "I was worried what his reaction would be.

"It was a brief conversation but I felt we smoothed it over a bit. He was furious and said it shouldn't have happened, but also offered support, which was a relief."

Asked if he was concerned O'Neill might pull the plug on his brief international career, he added: "It did cross my mind to fear the worst but he said learn from it, keep doing good things on the pitch and you will get your chance."

Whyte then phoned Oxford boss Robinson to break the news to him and received a similar response. The club would later fine him for his behaviour.

"I came in to training the next day, though I didn't feel like it," he added. "I just wanted to shut myself away. The manager said the best thing to do was see the lads and have a chat.

"The first game I played after the incident was against Portsmouth and their fans gave me a bit of stick, but our fans were amazing. They just see me as a player who wants to do well for their club."

Karl Robinson (Chris Radburn/PA)

Whyte is now determined to do what he can to ensure his embarrassing antics do not leave an indelible stain on his character.

He says one of the motivations for him to become a professional footballer was to give his three-year-old daughter Lily a better life and this put that at risk.

"It was probably the hardest thing I have had to deal with in my life," he said. "It has changed me as a person. In the last couple of weeks I have just locked everything into my own world. There is a social media expert called Gary at the club and I talk a lot to him.

"I now realise why a lot of footballers and those in the game keep themselves to themselves. It is better like that.

"Hopefully, it will make me a stronger person not just in my personal life, but professional life too."

Whyte is determined that something good will come from his nightmare.

He accepts and regrets that, in his younger years, he didn't always stop and think before posting online. What Whyte may have perceived as 'banter' with his pals may have been construed very differently by a larger audience online.

Later on the day we met, Whyte gave a talk to 16-year-old Oxford footballers about the perils of social media.

He explained: "I was on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and I have deleted all of those accounts.

"I have started afresh with Instagram, but only with people I know and trust.

"What this has taught me is to be aware of the power of social media. You have to be very careful. I tell people now to watch what they post because it can come back to haunt you.

"Everyone makes mistakes and many do things on social media they regret. If like me you have done, just make sure you don't do it again.

"You have to move on and learn from it."

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