Northern Ireland’s Gavin Whyte flying high with Hull City
Gavin Whyte’s recent form has helped propel Hull City to top of the League One table and put them in prime position for promotion.
Northern Ireland international Whyte scored in each half against Joey Barton’s Bristol Rovers side at the weekend and followed it up by playing his part in a 3-1 victory over second-placed Peterborough United on Tuesday evening.
The 25-year-old joined the Tigers in a January loan deal from Cardiff City and, after a brief injury setback which resulted in him missing six games, it looks like Whyte is getting back to his best.
It is also the influence of fellow Northern Ireland man Grant McCann who has been in charge of Hull since June 2019, that is helping Whyte perform at this high level.
“I had a few phone calls with the gaffer before I came,” he said. “He’s a great manager and man-manager.
“He has spoken to me a lot personally about how he wants me to play and what he wants me to do.
“It’s good to have a manager who does that and it puts confidence in you.
“He’s a great guy as well.”
Northern Ireland striker Josh Magennis is also at the club and has already scored a career-best 12 league goals alongside contributing four assists in 30 appearances.
He was a familiar face for Whyte walking into the changing room and he’s confident Magennis will have a big say at both club and international level in the coming months.
“He’s a great player,” said Whyte. “He’s a goal scorer and we have seen that over the years, especially with the national team as well.
“He’s on-form at the minute and hopefully he can keep banging them in for the team.”
The process of moving clubs during a pandemic isn’t a simple one and brought a series of challenges with it, but Whyte has taken it in his stride and knew it was necessary.
“It’s a nice place up here,” he said. “I have my missus with me here and she loves it.
“My daughter is in school in Cardiff so working around that was hard and they moved up.
“I had a feeling that I needed to go on loan at some time but didn’t know when it was going to happen.
“One day I went into training and found out that Hull were interested.
“It was something that I wanted to do and I needed to move straight away.
“I moved the next day and it was long and tough but it was something I needed to do.”
Whyte will almost certainly be included in Northern Ireland’s squad for three games at the end of this month.
Ian Baraclough’s side start their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign against Italy on March 25 before hosting Bulgaria six days later.
There is also a friendly against the USA sandwiched between those two fixtures and Whyte, who has earned 10 international caps, is excited for the challenge.
“It’s going to be tough,” he said. “Italy are a huge team and it’s something that we have to go and enjoy.
“It’s an experience for everyone and it’s something I’m really looking forward to.
“I love playing for Northern Ireland and it’s good when these games come around because it’s a change of scenery and you get to go home and see all the boys.
“It’s a young squad and there are a lot of guys coming through.
“Ian is brilliant.
“I worked with him before with the under 21s, so I know what he’s about.
“He’s a good man-manager and he’s building something really good, so long may it continue.”
Whyte won the Danske Bank Premiership three times in four seasons with Crusaders and was named both Player of the Year and Ulster Footballer of the Year for the 2017/18 campaign before moving to Oxford United.
He’s keeping a close eye on the Irish League and believes more players will get an opportunity just like he did.
“I was speaking to a few of the (Crusaders) boys last week,” he said. “I’m still in a WhatsApp group with them so they keep me up to date with everything.
“It’s going to be tough to catch Linfield but anything can happen in that league, which we have seen before.
“More clubs are going to the league now to watch the players and I think more players are getting a chance across the water.
“Before I left, there wasn’t really much for a couple of years - Joe Gormley and Liam Boyce had gone and then it was me a few years after.
“The likes of Mark Sykes, Bobby Burns and Joel Cooper all got moves.
“So there are good young players in the league.
“And it’s good for them and their teams that clubs from over here are watching.
“It gives them a chance as well.”