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O'Neill: We're 100 Per Cent Behind Paul
Thursday, 3rd Dec 2020 10:22

General manager of football operations Lee O’Neill has spoken at length about manager Paul Lambert’s position, as well as a number of other current Town issues, with many fans calling for a change of boss.

As last season, the Blues began this campaign as the team to beat in League One but have slipped down the table to fifth, without a win or goal in three games and having lost seven of the last 11 in all competitions.

In a lengthy interview with BBC Radio Suffolk, which can be found here (from 8mins 13secs), prior to Tuesday’s 0-0 draw at Oxford and Lambert’s controversial comments about media negativity, O’Neill was asked whether Lambert was under any pressure inside the club.

“In this game we’re all under pressure,” he said. “It’s the nature of football and we all feel it. At the same time we’re only two wins from being right up in the top part of the league again. We’re in the top six at the moment but we know we need to deliver results.

“That’s something staff and players don’t take lightly. There is a pressure and but that’s because of the stature of the football club.
“We’re in League One and the expectation is that we need and want to be higher than that a lot quicker.

Is his job safe? “We are 100 per cent behind Paul and the first-team staff and the players. It’s not a time to put a blame culture on why we aren’t picking up the points.

“We need to stick together, work incredibly hard and get behind the team to try and get back to where we were at the start of the season when we were winning games and playing a nice style.”

Will be definitely be at Town at the end of the season? Is there a time limit on Lambert, who has a five-year contract, to turn it around?

“This is football and we’re 100 per cent behind Paul to try and deliver the outcomes we want – to get ourselves promoted,” O’Neill continued.

“That’s what people want and what people are expecting. How quickly we can do that, that’s the challenge.

“We’re all up for that challenge and will work very hard to right the wrongs as quickly as possible so we don’t slip down the table and don’t lose games continuously.

“It’s incredibly difficult when, while I am very passionate about the academy, you sometimes have to rely on the young players because there are some big boots there for them to fill.

“There’s a lot of pressure on them as well and it’s about getting behind them, the team and the staff to hopefully deliver some success.”

Quizzed in whether Lambert, who has been in charge since October 2018, is the man to take the Blues back to the Championship, he added: “We very much hope so. We can’t sit here and say what’s going to happen in the future or in the next six months because we’re working day-by-day and game-by-game to try and put things in place to win the next game of football.

“Paul has a lot of experience and has been in management a long time, as well as being in this situation a number of times. To give him the time and resource to be able to do that we have to look at everything.”

It’s been widely suggested that the cost of sacking a manager who signed a five-year deal on New Year’s Day would be prohibitive.

“I think the idea, when we talked about the length of contract, was to try and give people an idea about the length of time to embed a philosophy and work on embedding some improvements,” O’Neill said.

“Some of those can happen immediately and others can take a little bit longer. We all want that to happen as quickly as possible so we’re hoping we can put that all in place for us to be up there and try to get out of this league this season. We’re working incredibly hard to try and do that.

Regarding fans’ frustrations, he said: “I get their frustration and I do understand where they’re coming from. So does the manager and so do the players.

“They don’t want to try and lose games of football and they go out there to win. They are trying to do that with a style of play which entertains. We’re only early on in the signing and we’re trying to make changes from last season, which takes time.

“Supporters’ points have been listened to. I get they are unhappy but we have to go out there and try to deliver a better performance as a team and as a club.”

On suggestions that there are wider issues at the club with Evans’s 13 years at the club having been less than successful overall, O’Neill said: “I think we can’t hide away from that because we are in the lowest position we’ve ever been in some aspects. We do have to look at things.

“I can’t comment on what’s happened in the past but we can reflect on it and learn from it to try and improve.

“The expectation is for us to be back in the Championship at a minimum because we also have won major trophies and have been in the Premier League. That’s different to how it is now. We have to take all those points on board.

Regarding owner Evans’s thoughts on the current position, he said: “Marcus is as frustrated as I am and as everyone is. We talk about winning together and losing together and he goes home disappointed when we lose. He’s the same as me, the manager and the players.

“Marcus is definitely aware of how the fans are feeling. He understands their frustrations. He can hear and see things around him and, even though fans aren’t at the stadium there are ways they have voiced their opinions. He’s aware of that and is fully supportive in getting the football club back to better times.”

Asked about the importance to Evans of fans’ opinions, he added: “Football clubs aren’t football clubs without fans and of course they have a real part to play in that process.

“He gets it and understands it and we want them to enjoy their experience. We want to understand their frustrations and concerns and reassure them we’re doing everything we can to improve.”

He says Evans has given no indication that he is looking to sell up and move on: “No, we’ve not had conversations about that at all.”

Moving on to the current injury situation, O’Neill said: “Having looked into this a lot there are so many things you can blame if you like and look at in more detail.

“You can’t get away from the fact it’s a contact sport where people collide. We’ve looked into footwear, traction control into grass, training methods, the way we analyse information and specific programmes all players have. We’ve gone through all of that in detail.

“Some of the situational stuff is unfortunate. If you look at the wider scale of injuries this season they are through the roof at every club. Obviously that’s to do with loading and games during a really condensed season after a lot of time off.

“It’s not ideal and really simple things like recovery strategies aren’t the same as they were last season. The same with the way people eat, sleep and the way they come in for training. That’s all different.

“We can’t put out our more experienced, stronger players like we were at the start of the season when we had that settled squad. We have to get on with it. We’ve have situations with Covid as well.

“We’re looking at everything from the medical department to the conditioning department, the games programme. Everything."

Quizzed on TWTD Phil Ham being banned from press conferences by manager Lambert, O’Neill said: “We have a relationship with the forum [sic] and the person who runs the forum so we are disappointed it’s got to this stage because we’ve always had a really good relationship.

“We understand it’s a really important way of communicating with the fans of the football club.

“There has been one or two things that have happened on there that the manager hasn’t been too happy with, which I appreciate from his point of view.

“I think it’s worth noting we are the only club in the EFL and the Premier League that does allow a fanzine [sic] to attend games and press conferences as a member of the media.

“The person we are referring to is a definite fan of the club and works incredibly hard so we want to have that relationship. It’s got to work both ways and there are some issues there we need to iron out. We’re sure the situation will evolve over the next few weeks.”

TWTD understands that a number of other clubs, including those in the Premier League, among them Arsenal, similarly give access to those working for independent websites and blogs.

In addition to his TWTD role, Ham, who holds a press card, is a freelancer and also currently writes for the Colchester Evening Gazette.

Asked whether there is a need to build bridges given the currently strained relations between club and supporters, he added: “It is hurtful because in the role I have recently taken over a lot of what I’ve spoken about is around building the relationship with the community and having the [Community] Trust back and established again.

“Paul has been out there and has spoken to a number of people locally. Our players do a lot locally. But we can always do more.

“We try to engage in all events and we’ve always made sure the person in question [Ham] has had access to the information that is in press conferences and is allowed at games.

“It hurts but in this role you have to take criticism. All points will be noted and we’ll try and improve things going forward.”

Regarding the importance of going up this season with the League One salary cap set to have a more significant impact next season, he said: “There are a number of teams all trying to do the same thing and have been in this league for a long time.

“We’re obviously one of the bigger clubs and the expectation is that it’s going to get harder with the salary cap. We’ve already found that this year it’s made recruitment a little different and it’s going to have an impact on how we can perform.

“We want to be in the Championship because that can impact who we can bring into the club.”

Photo: Matchday Images

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TrumpLambert added 10:23 - Dec 3
Lee O'Neil is a good man. The fake Blues media is going to try and tell you this is bad - but this is the best for business!

Kropotkin123 added 10:27 - Dec 3
We're not.

Lambert Out
O’Neill Out

ArnieM added 10:36 - Dec 3
Like I've already said , the Club will not be sacking PL anytime soon, when he's got an entire first team out injured. He has plausible deniability. So whether we like it or not , at present he's going nowhere. the strengthening / training coach has been put on gardening leave and appears to be the fall guy . But tbh you have to ask the question( as I've done for years) , why is it that we get so many injuries , often sustained in training. And when our players do get injured why do they take months and months and moths to get rehabilitated. Whether we like it or not , these factors are NOT down to PL.

DinnernotTea added 10:38 - Dec 3
You have blood on your hands, Lee.

ArnieM added 10:39 - Dec 3
ps : I'm saying btw , that I like the tactics PL uses. They are poor and lack an ability to almost "read" the game in front of him. He appears rigid in his thought processes, and unable ( or unwilling?) to make the right changes , at the right time. These factors ARE down to PL .

so clearly there are several issues to sort at this Club.

TimmyH added 10:44 - Dec 3
'Is his job safe? “We are 100 per cent behind Paul and the first-team staff and the players. It’s not a time to put a blame culture on why we aren’t picking up the points.' - hmmmm! you seem to have forgotten about last season Lee, part of this pressure from the supporters now is that it's happening again!! Lambert said before the season he had learnt from last season - but has he?

TimmyH added 10:47 - Dec 3
By the way 'entire first team out injured' Arnie M - a slight over exaggeration I think but yes injuries to some key players.

Woolfenthen added 10:48 - Dec 3
Marcus Evans, gets it and understands it, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

The_Flashing_Smile added 10:52 - Dec 3
Good use of "sic" here Phil!

RobITFC added 10:57 - Dec 3
The Club have got themselves in a rock and a hard place , give the man a 5 year contract and now cannot get rid of him unless pay him off. Lambert will be here until the end of the season when maybe a clause can relive him of his duties if we have not been promoted.

Razor added 11:05 - Dec 3
Who is Lee Oneil and what qualifications does he have to run our great football club?

He appeared from nowhere after Iain Milne was summarily despatched without any rhyme or reason and I dont think there was ever a thank you to him in the programme.

He was good man and looks like he got treated very badly.

Anyway this interview says nothing and is a load of flannel.

Lathers added 11:08 - Dec 3
Lambert will eventually be sacked because he isn’t capable of getting us promoted. Fact. Sadly we are just going to have to wait until Evans and O’Neil are ready to get rid of him which may be at the end of the season. And 2 points on the injuries. 1) only Bishop and the lesser spotted KVY would seriously make a difference to the starting XI in the current set up 2) even if PL had a fully fit squad to select from, he would still be playing the same style and tactics and be delivering the same appalling results. If we did by some miracle fluke promotion via the play-offs I can only imagine what a season in the Championship would be like under Lambert!

BcarefulwhatUWish4 added 11:15 - Dec 3
I don't even know what to write here anymore.

BlueGoonie added 11:34 - Dec 3
The suggestion that the salary cap will be detrimental to ITFC by limiting our spending is laughable, spending can't be limited when the starting point is zero.

PositivelyPortman added 11:35 - Dec 3
O’Neill is frightened of losing his “job”, and is only too happy to spout the rubbish he’s told to.
He’s a total waste of space and draining the club of much needed money.

ArnieM added 11:36 - Dec 3
TimmyH :

Id say this list looks pretty extensive , wouldn't you ? I don't know , it looks like most of our senior squad to me .

Kane Vincent-Young, *
James Wilson, ***
Toto Nsiala, ***
Teddy Bishop, *
Cole Skuse, ***
Flynn Downes, *
Emyr Huws, ***
Tristan Nydam,
Brett McGavin,
Gwion Edwards, *
Freddie Sears, *
James Norwood.*

* fully fit would be automatically in the first team . So effectively we have half our first team out injured , PLUS those who would likely be first off the bench ***

HarleydavidsonBlue added 11:37 - Dec 3
It looks like the the blind are leading the partial sighted! Talking loud and saying nothing. 4 more years of this and ITFC will be dead and buried. I am so fed up with this dross week in and week out. something has to change, sooner rather than later. COYB

Pencilpete added 11:50 - Dec 3
So he acknowledges that Promotion this season is extremely important and also acknowledges that it isn't looking too good right now

So how important is that promotion to you, to PL, to ME ?

Clearly not as important as it is to us ......

TractorBoyOlly added 11:57 - Dec 3
Kiss. Of. Death

Oldozblue added 11:58 - Dec 3
Comes across as a weak political operator - trying hard to not upset Evans or Lambert more than the supporters. Reckon he might be more vulnerable than Lambert.

Woodbridgian added 12:00 - Dec 3
Listen he's not going to come out and say they don't have confidence in Lambert or he's got x number of games to sort things out. Doing so would only help build a constuctive dismissal case for an EVEN BIGGER payoff for him when he finally goes.

Bradleyblue89 added 12:06 - Dec 3
If the fans are crucial to a football club, they should have been consulted before he was given a 5-year extension. For me, that is where I began to change my view of Evans.

Suffolkboy added 12:10 - Dec 3
Lots one could and can say ,but LO’N is a sound professional ,objective and in our experience both attentive and efficient .
It would be far far better to listen carefully ,read intelligently and consider in depth what he says and how he puts it .
I do not think he shirks any responsibility either to supporters or the Club ; we should ,at least in epassessing what he has to tell us, shed emotional or sentimental reactions and try to assess for ourselves hoe he and we can find a more harmonious way forward .
That is a two way process !
Well done L O’N !

StringerBell added 12:15 - Dec 3
Massively out-of-depth PE teacher pays lip service to fan in total BS shocker.

WhoisJimmyJuan added 12:20 - Dec 3
Suffolk boy- good point. And he doesn't actually say Lambert's job is safe, only that they are 100% behind him. That's very much a politician's answer; perhaps a nuanced way of saying we support him now but not indefinitely.

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