O'Neill on Lambert Press Conference: We All Get Frustrated at Times
Thursday, 8th Aug 2019 18:11
General manager of football operations Lee O’Neill says manager Paul Lambert’s frustrated comments at his press conference last Friday weren’t anything he and owner Marcus Evans didn’t expect with the Blues having been unable to add to his squad in recent weeks.
Asked how Lambert expressing his annoyance at the speed that deals are done at Town and the lack of cash made available to him went down with the Portman Road management, O’Neill said: “As Paul’s come out and said, and as Marcus has said in his statement, I think we all get frustrated at times when we’d like things to move slightly quicker.
“I think from that point of view it was, yes it could have been argued it was frustrations, but I don’t think it was anything we didn’t expect.
“We had conversations with Paul through the week and he’s trying to get the squad ready for an upcoming season, which is going to be a hard season, we all know that.
"So I think there are one or two things he would like to happen, or he would like to make happen as quickly as possible.”
How is the relationship between owner and manager, do they understand one another, see where one another is coming from? “One hundred per cent. I’m very fortunate to sit in just about all the meetings with Marcus and Paul and they’re both very highly driven people and they both want to succeed.
“As Paul rightly said, they’ll have a difference of opinion on things at times, but it doesn’t mean it’s not for the benefit for the club and the wider community.
“I think it’s important that they do talk and do challenge each other, if you want, in various things. I think Paul will always want more investment in the squad and obviously want things to change infrastructurally. Marcus is trying very hard to try and deliver on those things.”
Quizzed further on one of Lambert’s complaints, deals not getting done, the manager having said he was after three permanent signings a fortnight ago, former academy scholar O’Neill added: “It’s not easy, first of all. It really isn’t. I think getting the balance between the players that want to come to play for Ipswich Town Football Club for the right reasons and want to play in League One.
“They’re incredibly difficult conversations with players when, as any player would do, they want to play at the highest level they possibly can.
“From the recruitment side of things that hasn’t been easy. We’re working through it, it’s not finished in any way shape or form, we’re working through and we’re trying to address those issues that Paul [mentioned].
“And it’s not just Paul, we’ve recognised and identified with Marcus and other parts of the club that we need to help the squad, so, yes, the transfer deadline ends today for some areas but it carries on for us, so we’re still working through those processes.”
O’Neill says Lambert is very much in the loop as transfers progress: “He’s involved in every conversation about players. There’s no point in us bringing a player to the football club who the manager doesn’t want to play or doesn’t want to be involved. I think that’s important for that system to work effectively.
“Obviously Marcus is a businessman and he understands the economic side of things and from my side of things it’s to make sure that when Marcus isn’t here that we can do those deals and get them to fruition, to the point where we can get them over the line.
“It’s got to work business-wise for the club in the long-term economics and also players-wise - do they actually want to come and play in League One?
“It’s a trianglular approach, we all work together. Yes, we’ll have differences of opinions on players but that’s the game and everyone’s unique in that process but we definitely try to get the deals done for Paul’s benefit.”
While it’s often assumed that finance is the stumbling block on deals, that’s not been the case at Town this summer.
“You’ll always have the money situation, that’s always there but a player’s ambition playing in [a division], whether that be the Premier League or the Championship,” O'Neill continued.
“When you ask any player they want to play in the highest league possible to achieve whatever they can be.
“The pull of playing in League One isn’t as appealing necessarily as playing in the Championship, so from a player’s perspective you have to understand that.
“But at the same time you want players that want to come and try and achieve something with us. I want players, and Paul wants players, and Marcus wants players that are going to help drive the club forward.”
It can also be difficult persuading a player to come in if they can’t see an immediate way into the team.
“There is no guarantee, the manager makes that decision on who plays and there are no guarantees on any player that they’ll be playing every week,” O’Neill said.
“It’s up to them to convince the manager that they are worthy of their place in the starting line-up.
“As I explained when you look at loan players coming in, there are things in and around contracts where they want guarantees and you can’t guarantee anything in football, they’ve got to prove themselves.
“Sometimes that is added into the equation but at the end of the day if a player backs himself and performs in training he’ll get into the team.”
He added: “I think sometimes we get to a point where it’s about playing in the best league they possibly can play in and that’s the decision at the end of it.
“Finances, very rarely, we’ve been matching most of the deals that go on, it’s sometimes aspirations for a player, that’s what happens.”
One player who opted against moving to the Blues, Danny Mayor, decided against the switch for other reasons, preferring a reunion with his former Bury boss Ryan Lowe at League Two Plymouth having been at Portman Road for talks.
“I’m not going to comment on Danny’s individual situation or anyone’s individual situation,” O’Neill said.
“I’ll just reiterate the point really, any player that comes in here, there are no guarantees, first of all they’ve got to prove themselves to the manager that they’re ready to play and the second thing is that they’ve got to want to play in League One to get us out of League One.
“Any player, that’s the same for current first team players and loan players or new players coming in.”
Is there money available to add to the squad? “Marcus has already said that investment is important so we’re looking into all those options and Marcus has said we’ll try to make investment available where possible.
“But, as I said, it’s got to be the right deal for the football club as well people coming into League One, and not paying over the odds for those players, bearing in mind that hopefully, if we do get promoted, we’ve got the longer sustainability of a squad able to compete in the Championship if we’re lucky enough to get promoted.
“There’s lots of different factors involved in that situation, it’s not just about throwing loads of money at it really quickly for a quick fix, we’re looking at building a squad over a longer period of time.”
Asked why has none of the sell-on cash from the moves of Tyrone Mings, Matt Clarke, Adam Webster and Kieffer Moore, estimated to be around the £3 million mark, has gone to Lambert, O'Neill responded: “You need to read Marcus’s comments yesterday really.
"Those deals might come across as a lot of investment coming in really quickly, but when you look behind the situation it doesn’t happen that way, it happens over a long period of time. That money isn’t necessarily available at this moment in time to go out and reinvest and spend.”
O’Neill and Evans agree with Lambert that the club shouldn’t go down the route of having too many loan players.
“We would agree with that, we’ve done that over a number of years,” he reflected. “I think to get the balance right you have to consider both options to get the quality of player that we need, possibly on the short-term contract to allow us to get to the next stage.
“I don’t think it’s something we can’t just write-off and say we’ll never have loan players, I think we have to look at what’s coming through underneath, what we’ve got available, what we’ve got with injuries. There are loads of different situations we have to be aware of.
“Arguably, and we have to agree with Paul on that situation, you don’t want a team full of loans because you’re investing in other people’s players but at times they are part of the squad and they do contribute to the team going forward.”
He added: “You look at a lot of these loan deals when the players come to the football club, the reason why they’re going out on loan is to play football matches.
“So, if they’re not, there are large fees involved for those types of thing. But we have a lot of injuries coming back, so the squad, hopefully, in the next few weeks will look a lot healthier with some of the injured players coming back.”
He says the club is continuing to work on adding to the squad: “We’re working through it. It’s been a busy summer in general, not just today, it’s been a busy summer in general and we’re working incredibly hard to try and get the right deals for the football club.
“It’s not just now all of a sudden panicking, it’s something we’ve been working on for a while. We hope to get them in as soon as we possibly can.”
O’Neill says he’s confident there will be signings before the deadline on September 2nd: “I’m confident we can do what is best for the football club. Everyone just has to be patient with that process.
“There are a lot of negotiations and, going back to the point I made earlier on, any player that comes to the football club has got to want to play for Ipswich Town Football Club, not just fill a gap for a short period of time.”
O’Neill reiterated that the aim is to get out of League One at the first attempt but warns that it might take longer.
“Certainly the ambition to try and get back into the Championship as quickly as possible and that is our aim and our objective.
“However, we have to be realistic with everything that we have and Marcus has commented on that, with the players that we have and the longer-term contracts and the younger players that we’ve got, it might take a bit of time.
“It’s up to the club and everyone around it to be patient with that but we want to win football games and we want to be at the top of the league and we want to be competing for promotion and we want to go on a good cup run. We want to do all those things.
“There is no one at the football club who is sitting back and thinking that mid-table or lower table is acceptable, that’s not what we want. We want to drive forward.”
Meanwhile, former Blues loanee Matthew Pennington joined Hull City on loan on deadline day, while Trevoh Chalobah signed a new Chelsea contract, which runs to 2022, before joining Huddersfield on loan.
Another of last season's loanees, James Bree, has joined Luton, also on a season-long loan.
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