O'Neill Delighted Young Duo Have Signed Deals
Thursday, 2nd Jul 2020 14:57
General manager of football operations Lee O’Neill says he’s delighted youngsters Luke Woolfenden and Armando Dobra have signed long-term deals with the Blues following interest from Premier League and Championship clubs.
Yesterday, Woolfenden, 21, signed a new contract which runs to 2024 with the club having an option for a further season, while Dobra, 19, penned a new three-year deal, also including a one-year option, last month.
Championship leaders Leeds United are understood to have shown the strongest interest in Woolfenden, who had also been watched by QPR, Sheffield United, Crystal Palace and others during 2019/20.
Dobra was the subject of a £350,000 Brighton offer close to the January deadline with a number of other sides also having run the rule over the Albania U21 call-up.
In addition to Woolfenden and Dobra, midfielder Flynn Downes, who is contracted to 2022 with the club having an option for a further year, is understood to have been eyed by Fulham and West Ham.
“If clubs are said to be interested in our young players, then that means they are performing well enough to make an impression and that the potential is there. I’d be more worried if our players weren’t linked with clubs,” O’Neill told the club site.
“We’re obviously delighted that Luke and Armando have both signed long-term deals and as a club, we want to hang on to our best players whatever age. I think Marcus [Evans] has proved that down the years.
“Like any club though, if an offer comes in for a player you have to look at it. We had that situation in January and we turned down bids for players.”
O’Neill, who is also Town’s academy manager, stressed the importance of young players getting their chance to progress into the senior side with 20 current or former Playford Road scholars having featured at some point during 2019/20.
“The academy staff take great pride in seeing any young player wear the first-team shirt and what’s important is that we continue to provide a pathway for our homegrown players to progress from our academy into the senior set-up,” he added.
“We don’t know the financial situation we will return to when the new season starts and we will clearly need a balance of senior players alongside some younger ones but producing our own players remains one of the cornerstones of Ipswich Town.”
Meanwhile, the Premier League has made the decision that the academy games programme won't restart until 12th September at the earliest with no date yet set for a return to training.
Elsewhere, former Blues winger Lee Martin has been released by Exeter City. The 33-year-old scored the winning goal for the Grecians as they knocked Town out of the Leasing.com Trophy at St James' Park in January.
Another ex-Blues winger, Darren Currie, is reportedly among those in the running for the Southend manager's job vacated by Sol Campbell earlier this week. Currie, 45, is currently in charge at Barnet.
Hull City have signed 20-year-old central defender Festus Arthur, who was linked with Town and a number of other clubs in January, from Stockport County for an undisclosed fee.
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