O'Neill: Downes as Committed to Town as He's Always Been
Saturday, 11th Jul 2020 09:37
Town general manager of football operations Lee O’Neill says midfielder Flynn Downes is “as committed to the football club as he’s always been”, despite interest in the midfielder from the likes of West Ham and Crystal Palace.
Downes, 21, and Luke Woolfenden, 21, are the two Town youngsters who attracted most interest during 2019/20 with the Blues believed to have rebuffed offers for the pair during the January transfer window. We understand Leeds targeted Woolfenden and both Palace and the Hammers Downes, who has also been watched by Fulham.
Town want to keep hold of the pair for their 2020/21 League One campaign but both O’Neill and manager Paul Lambert have admitted previously that offers can come in which are too substantial to be turned down.
A fortnight ago Woolfenden, whose progress has also been monitored by QPR and Sheffield United, signed a new deal which ties him to Town until the summer of 2023 with Town having an option for a further season.
Asked whether Downes, who is currently contracted to the summer of 2022 plus a further year, will also get a new deal O’Neill told TWTD: “Flynn’s got two more years and a club option, so he’s got three more seasons with us, so he’s heavily contracted to the club.
“We’re always in conversation with those players and we’ll continue to be in conversation with those players about what that will look like in the future.
“Flynn’s really happy here, he’s itching to get back into training and games, as all the players are really. The way it finished and the way we finished as a club is not what they want going forward so they want to go and make amends and they want to put it right.
“He’s as committed to the football club as he’s always been all the way through his journey.”
Explaining the thinking behind Woolfenden’s new contract, O’Neill added: “It was probably three areas. One, Luke’s had a good season so we’re looking to reward him. Two, we’re trying to protect the investment we’re making into the academy and him.
“And three, should any club, whether the club that you’ve mentioned [Leeds] or any other club wants to buy our player we’re in a situation where we don’t just have to accept the lower bids based on contractual situation or based on the bid itself.
“We’re trying to put ourselves in the best possible situation to keep our better players and protect them for the longer journey.”
O’Neill wouldn’t be drawn on any offers received for the likes of Downes, Woolfenden and fellow youngster Armando Dobra, who TWTD revealed in January had been the subject of a rebuffed £350,000 offer from Brighton. The Albanian U21 call-up signed a new three-year deal with an option for a further season in May.
“I’ve said it before, if my phone wasn’t ringing for some of those players then I’d be a little bit more concerned,” he continued.
“Yes, we have had some enquiries from some clubs about those particular players that you’ve mentioned. Those players have shown that they want to commit to us, so that’s great.
“We’re in a situation where we can do that and we’re fortunate that [owner] Marcus [Evans] has agreed contracts for them, so that protects us in that element and it gives them an opportunity in that we’re investing in them and we can see a pathway in the future for them.
“So, it’s a bit of a win-win situation when that happens, we just get on with it until we see a concrete offer that’s an exceptional offer that the club can’t turn down or we feel that we need to do that to move the player on and bring another player in, then that’s what we’ll do.”
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