MARK Sykes has been made available for a loan move away from Oxford United in the first half of the season.

The 22-year-old’s only appearance so far this campaign has been in the Carabao Cup.

He was not involved in the first-team squad for the 4-2 defeat to Burton Albion on Tuesday night, having played for the under 23s earlier in the day.

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With the signing of George Thorne and Shandon Baptiste returning to fitness, it is felt the midfielder’s opportunities at United will be limited over the coming months.

Head coach Karl Robinson said: “Sykesy needs to go and play some minutes.

“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.

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“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 moved to United in January from Northern Irish club Glenavon for an undisclosed fee.

He went on to make 11 appearances before the end of the campaign, helping to earn a first call-up to Michael O’Neill’s senior Northern Ireland squad.

That involvement meant Sykes had a delayed summer break and the U’s allowed him to start pre-season later as a result.

It saw him playing catch-up and despite featuring regularly in the warm-up matches he was pushed down the pecking order.

But Robinson stressed a move away did not mean Sykes had been written off.

He said: “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 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.”