O'Neill: Squad is Competitive Enough to Be Challenging for the Title
Thursday, 6th Feb 2020 16:03
General manager of football operations Lee O’Neill believes the squad is good enough to get Town promoted even though January saw minimal incoming business.
Josh Earl effectively replaced Toto Nsiala, who joined Bolton on loan, but there were no other senior additions.
Quizzed on whether he believes the players at manager Paul Lambert’s disposal should be capable of winning promotion, O’Neill said: “Yes, we think the squad is competitive enough to be up there and challenging for the title, basically. That’s what we set out at the start of the season.
“We know that’s going to be difficult and we know it’s not going to be easy to achieve that.
“There is competition for places when you look at the starting line-up, when we look at profiling the two or three we have in each of those positions, there’s competition.
“It’s up to the players to perform really well and each one to keep his shirt. When we are looking to bring in another player they’ve got to be better than what we’ve got and a player that wants to come and play for Ipswich Town in League One.”
O’Neill and Lambert have both commented on the “incredible” money being asked by clubs for loan players.
Asked what sort of sums were involved in the proposed deals, O’Neill wouldn’t be drawn into specifics.
“I’m not going to comment on the amount of money but the principle of what I was trying to explain was that if we take a player from a bigger club, the reason why that player is being allowed out of that club is to go and get game time, that’s the only reason he would be going out.
“If we then take the player in that situation, in order to make that happen, we would have to put certain things in place.
“For us, if it’s a younger player coming from a bigger club, there are no guarantees that he can deal with this environment, that he’s played in this situation etc etc, it’s a gamble.
“It could work out really, really well and he could be the best thing ever and it’s the best decision but we don’t really know until he’s in that situation.
“And then for us to take that financial gamble as well as player gamble, it’s not always the best option.
“We’ve also got a number of players here that we have to make decisions on. Some of whom you’ve highlighted.
“The balance of the two doesn’t necessarily weigh itself up, we’ve invested already in some of our players, we’ve got an opportunity to give them some game time between now and the end of the season and see where they’re at in relation to their contractual situation or even their performances - can they handle the next level if we did manage to get promoted into the Championship? Could they handle that process?
“All of those factors were taken into consideration when we were looking at all of the types of player and we had a criteria that we were trying to achieve. If we were bringing in a player that that player was ready to go and could make a big difference to what we’ve already got at this moment in time.”
He added: “It wasn’t that we weren’t actively trying to look to recruit players, it’s making sure we can recruit the right type of players that are available to us and we need to go forward in a bigger picture, not just the next three or four months.
“Of course, there’s not an open chequebook to go and buy whoever we want, that’s the business part of the club that we’re trying to operate but at the same time, if we felt there’s a right player and at the right price, we would approach Marcus and try and get the financial backing and I’m sure he would support us in that situation.
“Finding those right players at the right prices is the difficult area, we’re constantly facing a challenge at the moment and that’s something we’re embracing to try and make the squad stronger going forward.”
One source of frustration to fans was the sale of Bartosz Bialkowski to Millwall but with no funds made available to manager Lambert.
TWTD understands the deal, which as things stand is worth significantly less than the fee agreed in the summer before the initial move broke down but with further cash due to the Blues as Bialkowski plays games and based on other milestones.
“It’s difficult to comment on him in particular,” O’Neill said.“But a deal is never as easy as saying ‘There’s a transfer for a player, and there’s a fixed amount coming in the door that we can reinvest’.
“His situation in particular is ongoing and is slightly different. In some cases it’s spread over a long period of time and it’s spread over X amount of appearances and stuff like that.
“It’s a difficult one to comment on because for him in particular, he had his own pathway, he’s enjoying playing football for them and I think that was the right decision for both Ipswich Town and for Millwall.”
Town had a week at the beginning of the window when they could have recalled Bialkowski in order to sell him to other clubs with Cardiff and Blackburn both understood to be keen, although evidently without firming up that interest.
The Blues might also have waited until the summer to see whether other clubs came in for the Polish international at that stage, perhaps yielding a higher fee.
“It’s one of them, you might get less,” O’Neill added when that scenatio was put to him. “You can look at it both ways. There’s always that argument, you never know what’s going to happen in the future, a player could get injured tomorrow and that’s him out for the rest of the seasons.
“A player can go on to play every game and be the best player in the team every week, you just don’t know.
“We weighed up what we believed was the right decision based on a number of factors going into that situation and it think it was the right decision for the club and Bart going forward.”
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