Exclusive: Bristol City hold talks with right-sided player from Oxford United

Robins could be closing in on a free transfer signing after conversations took place this week.

<p>Mark Sykes of Oxford United celebrates after scoring their team’s first goal against AFC Wimbledon.</p>

Mark Sykes of Oxford United celebrates after scoring their team’s first goal against AFC Wimbledon.

Bristol City are in talks with soon-to-be free agent Mark Sykes, whose contract is ending with Oxford United this summer.

BristolWorldreported recently that Robins boss Nigel Pearson attended a game at the Kassam Stadium to run his eye over several potential transfer targets.

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And right-sided player Sykes, who can play wing-back or as a right winger, was one of the players that Pearson and assistant Curtis Fleming closely watched that game.

Subsequently, the former Northern Ireland U21s player was left out of Oxford United’s final match of the season against Doncaster Rovers, a game that ended 1-1 with Ryan Williams playing down that flank for the U’s instead.

Asked after the game by the local media why Sykes had not played, Oxford boss Karl Robinson replied: “I think you know why...”. It followed reports of Championship interest in the 24-year-old.

Pearson met with Sykes and his representatives this week, with conversations taking place at the Robins High Performance Centre.

There is believed to be interest from several sides in Sykes, who hit eight goals and grabbed five assists in League One last season, as Oxford United finished eighth in the league. The U’s finished joint top scorers in the division, with 82 goals netted in 2021/22.

The former Glenavon player was called up to Stephen Kenny’s Republic of Ireland in March, for two games against Belgium and Lithuania, but the player remained an unused substitute.

Should the Robins complete the signing of Sykes, it would be a free transfer as the player is over 23 years old, although Robinson may yet hope to .

He has played 137 times for the League One side, since joining in January 2019.

And Sykes scored Oxford's consolation goal in their 2–1 defeat to Wycombe Wanderers in the 2020 EFL League One play-off Final at Wembley Stadium.

Bristol City need to replace Danny Simpson and Sykes may be able to fill in at right wing-back, should the West Country outfit continue with their 3-4-1-2 formation next season.

Alternatively, the player would offer a wide midfield option should Bristol City switch to a four-man defence.

“We’re going to have an interesting summer, let’s put it like that. It’s not going to be flush with big spending but we can be very competitive next year,” Pearson explained of this summer’s transfer plans at Ashton Gate recently.

The signing of Sykes might be a solid start to the summer, if Pearson and co like what they hear from the player, competition is seen off and terms agreed on a move.