Mark Sykes’ first words as a Bristol City player as he reunites with Rob Atkinson

Bristol City’s newest signing will reunite with some familiar faces after joining from Oxford United

<p>Mark Sykes is Bristol City’s first signing of the summer transfer window. (Photo by James Chance/Getty Images)</p>

Mark Sykes is Bristol City’s first signing of the summer transfer window. (Photo by James Chance/Getty Images)

Mark Sykes says he will draw on inspiration from Rob Atkinson as he bids to become a first-team player at Bristol City.

The 24-year-old was announced as the Robins’ first piece of business in the summer transfer window.

Signed on a free transfer following his departure from Oxford United, he has put pen-to-paper on a three-year deal with the option of another year, keeping him here until at least 2025.

Oxford for the past few seasons has been the place to sign players from as last season, Rob Atkinson was signed for a fee from the League One side.

Robbie Cundy also came through the academy system there before eventually ending up at Ashton Gate.

City’s newest arrival is hoping to draw on the experiences of Atkinson, who has cemented himself as a first-team player, to help him settle in at his new club.

Speaking to Robins TV, he said: "I keep an eye on a lot of the players, especially if I’ve been at the same club as them.

“I saw that Rob Atkinson did well last season, he came out of the team then got himself back in so that is definitely an incentive. I was only with Rob for a year or so at Oxford, so I’m looking forward to getting to see him again and ask him a few questions about how the club works.

"Last season I played a lot of games, I felt like I was an important part of the team and I really enjoyed the pressure of having to produce every weekend. I feel like I am a fit person and it’s all about the quality on the pitch, so if I can produce week-in-week-out hopefully I stay in the team.”

There is an element of intrigue with this signing as he arrives as somewhat of a utility man, which is a help but also a hindrance when trying to nail down a position.

Pearson’s squad has a number of players who have filled in a number of roles, such as top scorer Andi Weimann once playing at wing-back.

Sykes is predominantly a midfielder and in the role as a right-sided winger got most of his success with eight goals and five assists.

At times though, he was deployed as a right-wing winger, which is currently a system City do not play with, instead opting to play with wing-backs and a three-man central midfield.

It is a conundrum that may be sorted when pre-season begins and the earlier part of the Championship season, with more arrivals expects and potential departures.

“To be honest, last year I probably played in too many positions,” Sykes admitted.

“But, if you ask any footballer, all they care about is being on the pitch. For me, it worked out that I was playing pretty much every game last year.

“My manager at Oxford preferred me playing on the right of a front three but I’ve always been a midfielder growing up. I ended up playing at wing-back occasionally because we did so well and we got a few results.

“So, for me it’s probably anywhere across the front three but, listen, if I’m on the pitch then I’m more than happy.”

This is just the third move of Sykes’ career, having made the move from his native Northern Ireland to Oxford back in 2019.

He spent six years with Glenavon, playing six seasons there, winning the Irish Cup in 2016, before crossing the Irish Sea.

The Championship will be the highest level that he will have played at after spending the last four seasons in English football’s third tier.

"I’ve always had the ambition of playing in England at this level and I didn’t think it would come this quick so I’m delighted,” Sykes admitted.

“I’ve worked very hard to get here so hopefully we can do well this year and I can play many games.

"I’m delighted, I came over last week and met the manager, everything was positive. I’ve always wanted to play in the Championship and the manager was honest with me, he told me he would give me a chance here at the club so hopefully things keep moving in the right direction.”

Before his move was confirmed by the club, he had to undergo a medical and hold contract talks at City’s facilities.

After visiting both Ashton Gate and the High Performance Centre, he admitted he was blown away by what his newest club had to offer.

"It’s unbelievable here to be honest, I’ve only been at two clubs so I don’t have vast experience at training grounds but from what I can see here it’s unbelievable. It’s top-class, no complaints.

"My priority is to have a good pre-season and get myself in the team. I want to hit the ground running."