CRUSADERS winger Gavin Whyte has the cross-channel move he craved after agreeing to join League One side Oxford United.
The Northern Ireland international joins United for an undisclosed fee on a three-year-deal.
Leeds United, Doncaster Rovers and Crawley Town were heavily linked with the 22-year-old but Crusaders were able to finalise a deal with Oxford.
Whyte admitted his departure from Seaview will be an emotional one but he has to seize the opportunity to further his career and become a better player.
“I’m excited about it all, it’s a fantastic opportunity for me but it’s also emotional to leave the Crues where I had some brilliant times.
“Hopefully I can become an even better player and really enjoy my time there.
“I wanted to make sure it was the right move for me and as soon as I found out Oxford were interested, I knew this was where I wanted to come.
“I have heard a lot of good things about both the manager and the club and now I am determined to work hard, keep progressing and be part of a really successful season.”
United boss Karl Robinson was delighted to snap up the winger who won all the Player of the Year gongs last season.
“He is quick, skilful and has an eye for goal and we knew that so many other clubs were looking at him, including those in higher leagues,” he said.
“It says a lot about Oxford United and the reputation we have, that Gavin wanted to come here to play his football.
“Gavin will add real pace out wide but can also play more centrally, and we look forward to working with him. The players have been great in pre-season so far and we are in good shape, but we will continue to work just as hard as always to add to that and to keep strengthening in all areas.”
The club will wait for international clearance before Whyte is involved in matches, making it highly unlikely that he will be involved in the friendlies at Oxford City and Hampton & Richmond today.
Crusaders stated: “Gavin has been an integral part of Crusad- ers FC’s recent title winning successes since his introduction to the senior squad.
“Gavin shares our DNA at Crusaders and everyone at the club wishes Gavin all the very best on his move to full time football and the club will support Gavin with his transition.
“He will be sorely missed, not only for his football skills and talent, but also the camaraderie and fellowship.
“We also wish to record our thanks to Oxford United Football club for their professional approach to the negotiations.”
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland Under-21 midfielder Charlie Owens has signed a one-year contract extension with Queens Park Rangers.
Owens joined the Championship side from fellow London outfit Tottenham Hotspur following a successful trial period towards the end of the 2016-17 season.
That one-year deal has now been extended for a further year — until the summer of 2019 — after the U21 international impressed for QPR’s U23s last season, playing a deep-lying midfield role and featuring 19 times.
Along with senior Northern Ireland internationals Conor Washington and Paul Smyth, Owens was part of the senior squad which travelled to Portugal for QPR’s recent pre-season training camp.
I’m off: Gavin Whyte with Sean Ward (main) and in new kit (inset)