MARK Sykes is confident he can emulate former Northern Ireland Under 21 teammate Gavin Whyte by adapting quickly to English football with Oxford United.

The midfielder finalised a move from Glenavon yesterday for an undisclosed fee which will keep him at the Kassam Stadium until summer 2021.

In doing so he followed in the footsteps of Whyte, who has adjusted from part-time football with Crusaders far quicker than United predicted.

Boss Karl Robinson is cautious about expecting too much too soon, but Sykes has been buoyed by the way Whyte took the move in his stride.

Sykes, who is in line to make his debut at Brentford in the Emirates FA Cup on Saturday, said: “A lot of people have compared me and Gav, even though we don’t play in the same position.

“We know about each other’s quality and when he rang me he said I was good enough to play at this level.

“Hopefully from now until the end of the season I can show what type of player I am.

“I know I’m good enough and hopefully I can show that.”

The pair grew up close to each other and have been friends for several years after being in the same age group squads at Northern Ireland.

And it appears United’s recruitment team were given a nudge in Sykes’s direction by Whyte, who believes it is only a matter of time before he is joined by him in Northern Ireland’s senior squad.

The winger said: “He’s a great lad and a great player – the Oxford fans will love him.

“People need to realise there are good players in the Irish league, they just need a chance.

“Karl said because I’d done so well that he was going to have another look at the market and I said ‘there’s a player I’m close with called Mark Sykes and you need to have a look at him’.

“He played a game against Spain Under 21s (in September) and he ripped their two central midfielders apart.

“He just needs a bit of time and he’ll fit in well here.

“It took me a while to adapt and it will be the same for him.

“But coming here he’ll be doing everything right – training right and eating well.

“That’s only going to make him stronger, quicker and better.”