KARL Robinson believes Oxford United will benefit from Gavin Whyte’s international career – even if it is far from ideal in the short term.

The 23-year-old’s latest call-up comes with the U’s embroiled in a Sky Bet League One relegation battle.

Whyte is in the Northern Ireland squad to face Estonia tonight and Belarus on Sunday in two Euro 2020 Group C qualifying games – although must shake off a slight thigh injury if he is to add to his four caps.

As a result of his call-up, the winger misses Saturday’s trip to Coventry City as the U’s bid to move further clear of the bottom four.

Whyte burst onto the international scene when scoring on his debut against Israel in September.

But Robinson made headlines for the wrong reasons the following month when he clashed with Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill over being without the winger for a crunch game with Plymouth Argyle.

And while his absence is again far from ideal from his club’s perspective, the U’s boss believes it will help Whyte’s development long term.

“Let’s be honest, he’s playing international football so he’s playing with better players – the level tells you that,” said Robinson.

“It does improve him, it does make him better for us, but equally it makes him a bigger asset as well, so it’s all positive in the bigger picture.

“In the smaller picture, we want him to be available for all the games that we play in and that’s not to be the case unfortunately.

“But he’s such a talent and we’re very proud of our acquisitions, especially our permanent signings, the likes of him and Sykesy (Mark Sykes).

“We’ve got some really good players on our hands and we took a shot in the dark on two players coming from effectively non-league football.”

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Whyte joined United from Crusaders last summer and has netted seven times in 42 appearances.

His unavailability for the Plymouth game left the U’s with a threadbare squad.

But while he will be a big miss at the weekend, with Jordan Graham joining on loan in January and Samir Carruthers now fully fit, the U’s have other options in wide areas.

Robinson said: “It doesn’t help us, but we just have to get on with it and we wish him luck.

“At the beginning of the season, when we didn’t have players to come in and make a difference, it was hard.

“But we now have a better array of talent at our disposal.”