Michael O’Neill defends Gavin Whyte selection

Northern Ireland need to end away goal drought tonight...

Oxford United manager Karl Robinson is not happy that his new signing Gavin Whyte will be missing for their Sky Bet League One clash with Plymouth tomorrow.

He requested for Whyte to be released from the Northern Ireland squad to play in this important clash tomorrow considering Kyle Lafferty’s withdrawal from the squad. Gavin Whyte has featured in the Northern Ireland squad since last Summer and earned his first cap in the friendly against Israel where he scored his first international goal. Robinson reportedly said he was gutted that Whyte had been selected and made an assertion that Whyte only got his place because Oxford had signed him. He told the media “I asked if he could come back. I feel low with that, because if we hadn’t signed Gavin Whyte, he wouldn’t have been there.” He went on to say; “It’s not like we’ve got a top international player who has been there year-in, year-out and earned their stripes playing somewhere else. He would’ve been playing for the under 21’s probably, but we’d have probably got special dispensation for that with where we are right now”.

Michael O’Neill strongly admonished Robinson’s remarks saying “I was quite surprised at that to be honest. If you sign an international player, you then object to him going playing international football. Gavin Whyte was a senior international – in terms of he came in the squad with us – in the summer. I believe Karl is claiming he has made him into an international player in the five games that he has started for Oxford this season. I thought the comments that Gavin is not an important player for us is a bit belittling of the player given that Gavin was named in the original squad.”

He finished by saying “To be an international player you have to turn up and you have to play. Gavin is delighted to be here, so I think Karl should maybe think before he speaks.”

No doubt Michael O’Neill has more important matters to focus on namely, their fixture against Austria tonight and the Bosnia & Herzegovina game next Monday.

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