O'Neill on Town Owner's More Hands-On Role
Monday, 14th Jan 2019 14:56
New general manager of football operations Lee O'Neill has outlined how owner Marcus Evans will be taking on a more hands-on role at Portman Road.
O’Neill took on his new position, which he will carry out while still remaining academy manager, towards the end of last year, while MD Ian Milne will step down at the end of the month.
Evans has been seen more and more frequently at the club in the last few months as he becomes increasingly involved in the day-to-day running of Town.
“He just wants to try where possible to get to the ground and be here and be hands-on with the football operations both on the pitch and off the pitch so he has a better understanding of things that are going on and can use his expertise to try and make improvements where possible in different departments,” O’Neill told Life’s a Pitch on BBC Radio Suffolk on Saturday (1hr 15mins).
Evans was at the club last week to speak to staff in various departments with staving off the threat of relegation remaining the big target but with the prospect of dropping into League One, which would cost the club at least £7 million in media revenues even before any reduction in season ticket sales and gate receipts, not being ignored.
“We have to be aware of that situation but obviously our plan and our focus is still on staying in the Championship,” O’Neill added.
“The meetings are in general about how we’re going to try and drive things forward and obviously with that we have to be aware of what could happen because of the current situation we’re in, we can’t hide from that.
“But the idea this week was for him to meet the staff and talk to them, a lot of them had various good ideas about how we can make improvements and get that feeling for what it’s like.
“It’s incredibly difficult for him to be here every day because of the number of businesses he has all over the world.
“But as part of the plan he is going to be here more and he is going to be more hands-on.”
How often might that be? “At the moment we can’t say specifically but we will have scheduled times, for example this week he was here for two days and he’s at the game today. He’ll work in scheduled blocks when he can allocate time to the club.
“And that will be related to the relevant staff members here who will have contact time with him.”
As things stand, one-time academy scholar O’Neill says there are no plans for a direct replacement for Milne: “I think Marcus has left it open, he’s going to look at the MD’s role as it goes forward.
“At this moment in time he wants to get more involved in being here and have those clear ideas what it is exactly he thinks he can do to drive the club forwards.
“That position at the moment isn’t going filled internally or externally, he’s looking at all options.”
Evans’s lack of a public profile remains a concern for many supporters, even more so when the club is struggling. O’Neill says fans can expect to hear from him in due course.
“I’m sure at some point he will be out," he continued. "And that’s a bit of my role as well, to try and make sure I have a really close relationship with both [manager] Paul [Lambert] and the owner and to make sure that I can get that message out either directly from Marcus himself or via Paul that it is clear what they’re thinking and what the club’s thinking going forward.”
He added: “I live in the town, so I fully understand their frustrations both on and off the pitch.
“And where possible I can come out and try and explain things. We're trying to make improvements and those things do take time. It’s not going to happen overnight but hopefully you’ve seen from Marcus at the moment that he has put investment back into the squad ready for the window.
“We said previously we were going to try and do it as early in January as we possibly could to give the team the best possible chance.”
Social media rumour had suggested the Blues were targeting the likes of Peter Crouch and Charlie Adam from Lambert’s former club Stoke - although the Blues boss played down those claims - but the additions who have come in have been of a lower profile. O’Neill says the financial aspect hasn't been the main factor in who has been recruited.
“It’s incredibly difficult, any window is incredibly difficult, but with the current situation that we’re in as well, it’s important for the club that we have players that want to be here for the club and want to play for the right reasons,” he said.
“And that’s not always easy. Some of the names that have been mentioned, they’re big names.
“It’s nothing to do with the investment and money side of things. Marcus has put investment into the team, it’s about the players that want to be here. When you are bottom of the league, that’s not the best inducement to get players into the team.
“You want to be in a situation where they want to come and play for the right reasons. Sometimes that is players who are coming to the end of their contract, they have points to prove or players who haven’t had a lot of game time and want to play games, that’s just what a footballer wants to do.”
Regarding further additions, he added: “We’re obviously working on a number of signings to try and improve the squad, as we have done throughout January.”
O’Neill, whose father Tommy was a member of Town's 1975 FA Youth Cup-winning side, echoed Lambert’s comments from the end of last week when he said players now on the fringes, such as Jordan Roberts, who has already been mentioned in connection with Bradford, the MK Dons and Plymouth, can go out on loan.
“We have a big squad now with the number of players we’ve got in and it’s important for those players [not involved], whether they’re young players or experienced players, that they get game time as well, so it’s something that we’ll be working on with clubs that might show an interest in taking them during the window as well,” he said.
Like Lambert, O’Neill had praise for the club's support during a very tough season: “The fans have been absolutely fantastic and Paul has come out and said that on a number of occasions.
“We’ve met with a few of them as the weeks have gone on, they’ve been absolutely brilliant and got behind the team and supported it and that’s exactly what we need.
“When we’re in this situation, you find out a lot about the people and the supporters and they’re showing their colours at the moment by supporting the team as best they can and that’s all we can ask for and we really appreciate that.”
Also on Saturday’s Life’s a Pitch were legendary keyboardist Rick Wakeman (1hr 9mins 51secs), talking football rather than music, and the Fortuna Blues (1hr 25mins 47secs), who handed over a donation of £600 to the campaign for a statue for Kevin Beattie to show regular Terry Butcher.
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