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Whyte hoping international success can lead to more opportunities on return to club Cardiff


Red and Whyte: Gavin Whyte is congratulated by Daniel Ballard after his equaliser for 10-man Northern Ireland

Red and Whyte: Gavin Whyte is congratulated by Daniel Ballard after his equaliser for 10-man Northern Ireland

Red and Whyte: Gavin Whyte is congratulated by Daniel Ballard after his equaliser for 10-man Northern Ireland

Club football is the vehicle which transports players to the international stage.

To achieve national acclaim, players must excel with their clubs.

Yet with Northern Ireland, it has always been a slightly different path.

International football has often propelled players on the fringes of teams back into a club manager's consciousness.

David Healy, Kyle Lafferty and Paddy McNair have all benefited down the years from excelling for their country.

Now, former Crusaders winger Gavin Whyte, who rescued a point for Northern Ireland in Bucharest on Friday night, is hoping Ian Baraclough wasn't the only manager impressed with his goalscoring exploits.

While Whyte is pushing for a start against Norway tomorrow night, he would also dearly love to come back into the plans of his Cardiff City boss, Neil Harris, ahead of the new Championship season.

The 24-year-old only featured twice for the Bluebirds post-lockdown as the Championship was played out to a finish and he knows that must change.

"I think being away with Northern Ireland will help my club situation," stresses Whyte, who moved to Cardiff from League One Oxford United last summer.

"Obviously the club situation isn't going as well at the minute but hopefully it gets my club manager's eyes on me for the new season.

"I have played a few pre-season games before coming away and I feel sharp.

"I've got one goal and it gives my club manager a different position for me and when I go back, I hope to be in the squad and not move from it.

"I played more games than I expected to in the first six months at Cardiff but I didn't really feature in the next six.

"I just want to play as many games as I can - for club and country."

Whyte timed his run into the box perfectly to latch onto a Lafferty nod down from Bailey Peacock-Farrell's free-kick to score against Romania. It was his second international goal, adding to his debut strike against Israel.

Thanks to Covid-19 restrictions, Whyte and his team-mates celebrated in an empty stadium as supporters were not permitted into the Arena Nationala.

"That goal was very special, every bit as good as my first goal," insists Whyte.

"I love playing for Northern Ireland and I love scoring. I'm a bit raging the fans weren't there but hopefully when things go back to normal I can score more goals and keep playing well for the side.

"I'm a confident guy and I'll just be looking to do well in training and hopefully my goal on Friday night puts me in the manager's plans for Norway."

With Josh Magennis suspended after his red card in Romania, Whyte - along with Lafferty, Liam Boyce, Conor Washington and Shayne Lavery - will be vying to lead the attack.

Middlesbrough ace George Saville is likely to start once again on the left of midfield and, even though he felt Northern Ireland fully deserved their point on Friday, he wants to see improvement, especially in terms of ball retention.

Norway have two strikers in Erling Haaland and Josh King who can punish a mistake and the hosts will have to reduce their error count.

"I feel like we can handle the ball a lot better, I don't think we looked comfortable on the ball, especially in that first half, and maybe we needed a little bit more positivity," concedes Saville.

"We tried doing the right thing but I think it's going to take a couple of games to get going but a positive result in Romania can give us a bit of momentum into Norway.

"But I'd like to see us handle the ball better and keep the ball better.

"With Norway, we would like to think we can stamp our authority on the game and they fear us a little bit.

"We'll look to play our game. We want to handle the ball better possession-wise, we've got good centre-halves to deal with the likes of Haaland and King on the night. I'm confident, I'm looking forward to it and I think everyone else wants to push on from getting a point in Romania."

Saville will line out alongside skipper Steven Davis, who will go level with Pat Jennings with the most Northern Ireland appearances on 119 caps.

"His record speaks for itself," says Saville. "There's not a bad word you could say about Davo, he's been fantastic with me personally on and off the pitch. He's a role model.

"I think I can speak for everyone inside the camp when I say you can't speak highly enough of Davo, he's a tremendous pro and deserves all the plaudits that he gets."

Belfast Telegraph