Football/Soccer

Transfer talk distracted me last season: Crusaders winger Gavin Whyte

Flying winger Gavin Whyte experienced a wee flavour of Scotland as he received IRN-BRU’s Golden Balls Award for his last-minute goal that fired Crusaders FC into the semi-final of the IRN-BRU Cup Picture: Stephen Hamilton

Danske Bank Irish Premiership: Coleraine v Crusaders (today, 3pm)

CRUSADERS’ flying winger Gavin Whyte has acknowledged that last season’s transfer talk affected his form – and has put thoughts of a cross-channel move firmly to the back of his mind.

Regarded as one of the brightest prospects in local football, Whyte has got back to his best form this season, scoring nine goals in his last five games.

Last January, Dundee United made a failed bid to sign the Crues winger – but talk of a move away from Seaview distracted him.

“In my first couple of seasons with the first team I was always thinking about getting a move across the water. I was thinking: ‘If I play well here until the end of the season, I’ll get a move’.

“Now, I’m not thinking like that. If it happens, it happens because it definitely distracted me last year.”

The 21-year-old added: “My ambition is to play full-time football. I’m playing well at the minute, I’m confident and I’m not thinking about going across the water. I’m happy playing here week in, week out and I love playing for Crusaders, and I’m scoring most weeks.

“The manager [Stephen Baxter] keeps telling me to play with a smile on my face and work hard in training and that’s what I’ve been doing.”

After gifting their hard-earned league title to Linfield last season in a dramatic finale, the Shore Road men appear to be back to their best having won their last five league games ahead of today’s trip to table-toppers Coleraine.

They can cut their hosts’ lead to three points if they can inflict a second league defeat on Oran Kearney’s side today.

“We’re getting back to the form of the start of last season and the two seasons before that when we were winning leagues...

“There’s a buzz about the changing room, whereas towards the end of last season we didn’t have that. We’re hungry again and we don’t want this season to finish the way it did last season.

“What happened last year, I don’t want that to happen again. It was heartbreaking. Linfield were brilliant in the run-in, but we threw it away really.”

Since conceding the Gibson Cup to the Blues, David Healy’s side have yet to beat Crusaders in three attempts this season.

After dismissing Dungannon Swifts 4-0 in mid-week, the Crues face a much tougher examination of their title credentials against high-flying Coleraine at Ballycastle Road today.

“Coleraine are a young, hungry side. They’ve loads of great players and I play with some of their [Northern Ireland] U21s so I know how good they are,” said Whyte, now in his fourth season with the Crusaders first team.

“They’re a good side. It’s hard to say if they can stay there [at the top] because it’s not even Christmas yet.”

Meanwhile, Whyte collected the player of the round - Golden Balls award - for his late winner that sunk Dundee United in their Irn-Bru Cup quarter-final recently.

“It’s nice to get recognised over in Scotland,” he said.

“I think it was a fans vote on Twitter for the player of the round, and I’ll certainly take it.”

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