O'Neill: We're Targeting Early Additions
Tuesday, 14th May 2019 09:35
Blues general manager of football operations Lee O’Neill says Town hope to make signings as soon as possible during the close season in time for the pre-season trip to Germany. O’Neill confirmed that the club are close to announcing their retain and release list.
Jordan Spence, Jonas Knudsen and Simon Dawkins are among those who look certain to leave the club with their terms up this summer, while the Blues are in talks with a number of other out-of-contract players about their futures.
“We’re obviously working through that,” O’Neill told TWTD. “The retain and release list will go out just after the third Saturday in May but conversations back and forth with players and agents are ongoing.
“We’re very close to getting sorted out but it’s still a few more days before we can confirm what that plan is going to be going forward.”
Regarding additions to the squad, O’Neill says the Blues have been working on their plans for the summer for some months.
“It isn’t just now or even the first two weeks of the off-season, it’s something we’ve been working on for a long period of time, even back to January [in terms of] the whole scouting and recruiting areas, whether it was short-term for the [January] loans, and for the long-term we know where we need to make improvements in the squad and that’s something we’re working towards.
“I don’t have any confirmations yet on signings but we are working on them and we hope to do some business as early as possible because we’d like to have the players in place for pre-season to go to Germany which Paul’s talked about as being an important part.”
Given the impact relegation has had on the budget is it likely most of the signings will be Bosmans?
“I’ll think we’ll look at everything,” he added. “It depends on players going in and out and what happens on both sides of things.
“Obviously there is an area for that market, you might be in a situation to look at a free transfer but the player will still demand wages and things like that.
“It’s getting a mixture, as we’ve talked about quite a lot, of the experience that we need in the squad and the young and exciting players that we’ve got coming through.”
Tranmere’s 32-goal top scorer James Norwood, who will available on a Bosman once the Wirral club have completed their League Two play-off campaign, has been linked with the Blues on a number of occasions and we understand the 28-year-old is indeed on Town’s list of potential additions, despite manager Paul Lambert previously dismissing the claims.
Interest in Conor Washington, 26, who has been released by Sheffield United and has also been linked, is understood to be less likely given Town’s relegation to League One and the attendant financial constraints.
Will there be an element of Lambert needing to sell in order to bring in his targets? “We’re not in to sell any players, that’s not what we have to do to operate going forwards.
“I think as per any window, whether it’s now, January or previous seasons, if an offer comes in for a player it has to be a significant offer for Marcus to even have a look at it, but that’s not at the forefront of what he’s thinking at the moment.
“We’re trying obviously to build the squad with the existing players that we’ve got and add the one or two acquisitions that we need to in and around the areas that we’ve identified.”
O’Neill took on his new role towards the end of 2018 and says he plays a part when it comes to player recruitment.
“I am involved in the process,” the one-time academy scholar said. “There are a number of people involved in that process.
“[Director of football] Dave Bowman from the recruitment side of things, [owner] Marcus [Evans] himself does take some hands-on responsibility on the negotiation of contracts and there’ll be other areas that he allows me to get on with.
“We work as a team in that aspect and obvious that input of what Paul wants and the club needs going forwards, there’s a mixture going forwards.”
O’Neill confirmed that Bowman, effectively the club’s chief scout who was brought to Portman Road by former manager Mick McCarthy in 2012, will be staying on despite taking on a role with alongside the ex-Blues boss with the Republic of Ireland.
“Dave Bowman is still involved with the recruitment process, he’s been working incredibly hard,” he said.
“People say, ‘You’re now just reacting to what happened and the situation’, but no, we’ve identified that over a period of time. We have targets and we’re working towards them like any other club is as well.
“He’s continuing to work the same aspects that he was before [he took on the Ireland job]. Obviously he’s got his other roles he was doing with other organisations [among them a consultancy with Nike].
“He works incredibly hard with the recruitment side of things and it’s something that we need to look at, making sure we get the right people in that can help Paul and his team.”
Meanwhile, it's been confirmed that the transfer window for League One and League Two clubs will close at 5pm on Monday 2nd September with the final day of August falling at the weekend.
Elsewhere, reports of links the Blues with Exeter keeper Christy Pym, 24, appear to be founded on nothing more than social media rumour.
Pym, who faced the Blues in the Carabao Cup in August, is out of contract this summer having established himself as the Grecians’ number one after coming through his hometown club’s youth system. The 6ft-tall keeper won three caps at England U20 level.
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