OXFORD United had to act quickly to make a move for Mark Sykes which they hope will be completed shortly, boss Karl Robinson has revealed.

The 21-year-old midfielder arrived in Oxford from Northern Ireland yesterday and is due to have completed his medical by this morning after agreeing terms.

He was a player the U’s had scouted several times, both for his club Glenavon and Northern Ireland’s under 21s.

But it appeared he was set for a transfer to Sky Bet League Two side Port Vale, before United made a last-ditch effort over Christmas after U’s chairman Sumrith ‘Tiger’ Thanakarnjanasuth sanctioned the deal.

Robinson said: “We heard it was done, but we made a last phone call.

“We were told if we don’t do it in the next 24 hours he will be gone.

“Tiger was over (in the UK) thankfully.

“We had a staff meeting and Tiger just said ‘just go and do a deal’.

“We made one call and the deal was done in 25 minutes.”

Once the formalities are completed, Sykes will be the second player to join the U’s from Northern Ireland’s domestic league.

And Robinson admitted the success of Gavin Whyte, who is a close friend of Sykes, since the summer helped convince United to make the move.

He said: “It gives us confidence.

“People will argue that Sykes was ahead of Gavin Whyte when we signed him.

“We watched him play for Northern Ireland against Spain and he was sensational.”