O'Neill: Lambert's Exit Cumulation of Things and Not Related to Proposed Takeover
Monday, 1st Mar 2021 14:37
General manager of football operations Lee O’Neill says Paul Lambert’s departure from Town last night was down to a “a cumulation of things” and insists the Scot’s exit has nothing to do with the proposed US-backed takeover.
While there had long been a clamour among fans for Lambert, 51, to be handed his cards by the club, the timing might have been seen as surprising from the outside with the Blues having won back-to-back games for the first time since October and moved up to eighth, only two points off the play-offs.
“I think there’s never a great time or good timing when you’re looking to make a change of the manager,” O’Neill said at a lunchtime press conference.
“I just think it had just got to a point from Paul’s perspective and the club’s perspective where it was difficult to continue.
“It’s obviously been great in the last couple of weeks with some of the performances and the results, but it had been ongoing for a while with his frustrations, so the decision was made to make the change in the management.”
Asked whether matters had come to a head because of his comments after the Northampton match when he criticised the structure of the club, O’Neill said: “I don’t think it was just one event, I think he’s a person who has high standards and wants to achieve certain things and it wants to be done in a certain timeframe, and that’s incredibly difficult.
“I think it’s a cumulation of things. Paul was great, very professional along the way working with the players and trying to get the team set up to get results every week.
“Just the ongoing relationship, these things get to a point where it’s best for the club to look at a new manager.”
Did owner Marcus Evans feel let down by those comments? No, they have a healthy relationship, and they do talk. This year, in particular, it’s been a lot more like this [Zoom], virtual rather than in person because of the situation and the lack of travelling available.
“But like at any football club they’ll have a difference of opinion, they’ll have different ideas but healthy in their discussions. They don’t see eye to eye on some things, but that’s normal, I think, in most manager and owner relationships.
Did Evans, who met with Lambert on Thursday and then spoke to him again on the phone on Friday, not his ambitions? “No, not at all. Marcus has still got the same ambitions for the football club to get back into the Championship as soon as possible and try and get the club into a much better position than it is currently at the moment.
“It’s a wonderful thing about football, people have disagreements or differences of opinions, and that’s football.
“Look, they got on really well, they had really good conversations, just unfortunately it just got to a point where the change was needed.”
Assistant manager Stuart Taylor has also left the club at a difficult time for him with his father having died over the weekend.
“Our condolences from the football club,” O’Neill said. “Stuart Taylor has had a very tough few days and from that point of view the timing wasn’t very good.
“But it’s part of the business side of football, the decision needed to be made and we had to make that decision. But he’s had a very tough weekend.”
O'Neill says the squad was told about the departures last night: “The players were told yesterday evening around the situation and obviously further information was explained to them today about what is going to happen.
“Obviously, we’re trying to prepare for our which is obviously the most important thing tomorrow, but they were told on Sunday evening.”
Has Lambert said his goodbyes? “Paul has spoken to people at the football club and will continue to do so over the next few days.
“As you can imagine, those situations are never easy when a manager leaves a football club, and obviously, we’re preparing for the next game. So we’ll work through that situation in the next few days.”
Asked to reflect on Lambert’s two and a half years in charge and put to him that it had been poor, O’Neill said: “I think if we reflect right back to when he came in, I think it gave the whole town a lift [him] coming in, and there were a lot of good things that have been done, that maybe have been overshadowed in the last few months.
“Within the town, I live here and I’m in and around it, it was a good place to be, there was a lot of positivity.
“So, from that point of view, there are some good things and we’ve had some good performances under Paul. I think obviously it’s a standard that we haven’t had, we haven’t the performances and results that we need of late, all bar the last two weeks, and falling a little bit outside the play-offs is not where we want to be.
“As a club, we need to get back into those play-off positions and obviously try and get ourselves promoted as quickly as possible.”
Did Lambert under achieve given the resources at his disposal? “It’s always a difficult job. He had a number of injuries, it’s not easy just to say it’s down to one thing.
“We as a club had a lot of injuries. We’ve gone through the Covid situation in the last 12 months, we’ve been through the salary cap situation, so there’s been a lot of other things that have played to that decision-making process.
“He did the best job that he could do with the players that he had. We’ve all got to look at it, I think he made that clear himself, we’ve all got to look at everything within the club to make sure that we can strive to be better than we are at the moment because we need to be up the league and doing better than we are.”
Was he backed adequately when he came to Marcus asking for finance to bring in the sort of players he wanted? Was he given the tools to do the job?
“I think so,” O’Neill reflected. “You look at it earlier on in the season when the salary cap situation came in, we were already at a threshold of what we could do with adding strength to the squad.
“We did add players in the summer and obviously in the last window we were restricted as well with having to go for a certain type of player from the salary cap side of things and the age.
“Hitting that criteria, I think we managed to bring in players, so Marcus has been good in trying to support that. I think any manager would always like or want more in that process but he definitely tired to support him as best he could with what we’ve got.
“And if you look at our squad, I do think it’s a competitive and healthy squad that can compete for promotion this year.”
Asked what he says to fans who believe there’s a bigger divide between themselves and their club than ever before, he responded: “Look, that’s one thing that we need to address. They are really important to the football club.
“Like I said right at the start, [like it was] maybe 12 or 18 months ago, if you’re a part of that in and around the town and everyone is positive, it is a great place to be.
“That coincides with results on the pitch, which everyone gets and understands. It’s not just that, there’s a lot of good things going on outside of the first team in the football club.
“We’ve got good links in the community, which we need to get back to. We’ve got a very healthy female programme, we’ve got a very healthy academy. There are lots of very positive things that are going on at the football club at the moment.
“Everybody’s just had a really tough 12 months and not getting results on top of that, is obviously making people incredibly frustrated.
“We’re trying very hard to make that feeling better for the club and, again, one of the reasons we’re bringing in a new manager, hopefully momentum and that feel-good factor can come back to the town very quickly.”
Did Lambert accept the decision? “Of course he’s disappointed. When he came in, he knew the club and the history of the club and wanted it to be successful. I think he’s disappointed like every one of us involved in the football club that it hasn’t come as quickly as we’d have liked.
“I think from that point of view, he’s disappointed. But he’s been in this position before and he knows and he’ll reflect and obviously move on, as we all will, trying to make improvements.”
Does Evans regret the five-year deal which Lambert signed on New Year’s Day 2020 only 14 months ago? “Look, at the end of the day, it hasn’t worked out for that length of time, we get that and understand that.
“When we talk about the length of time we’re talking about there, it was to try and implement a longer term strategy.
“Marcus’s thoughts around that were to try and secure a manager, knowing that we are looking at the longer term plan, trying to bring through some of our homegrown players and that isn’t going to happen overnight. That that’s a project, if you want.
“All of those things, on reflection, we needed to have done better. Disappointed that it hasn’t worked out, but we’re very positive on moving forward.”
Quizzed on Lambert’s compensation potentially costing the club a lot of money at a time it can ill afford it, O’Neill said: “I’m not going to go into the detail of the contract, that’s a private matter between the club and Paul, but it’s a situation that we had to address and we have done and moved on.”
Asked whether a settlement of his contract has been agreed, O’Neill said: “I’m not going to go into the detail of that because it’s private and confidential between the manager and the football club, but it was mutual.”
So the matter is done and dusted? There isn’t anything ongoing? “No, they both left on good terms.”
Asked whether Lambert was paid the whole of the remainder of his five-year deal, as it was reported he was after, or a lesser sum, as we understand was the case, O’Neill wouldn’t be drawn: “Again I’m not going to go into specifics.”
Asked about Lambert’s comments on his likely departure in the event of a takeover, O’Neill says his exit now is not related to any proposed deal, having said that there is currently no offer on the table.
“Absolutely, it’s a completely separate decision,” he said. “Obviously, I heard Paul’s comments on that and that’s how Paul feels about the situation, and I think that’s driven externally by the media on what the speculation is.
“I’m clearly stating from the club’s point of view as Marcus’s stance has always been as what I’ve said that he at the moment is the person driving the club forward and the club actively not looking to sell it. However, he would look at any opportunity if it was right for the football club.”
Asked about an element of the statement which was released last night announcing the departure, there was a line about immediate priorities, what is Evans’s aim on that front?
“I think the priority for us is to get promoted and get out of the league,” O’Neill continued. “That’s one of our key priorities now and making sure that we are in and around it and we are right up there in the top six places.
“But we are not ruling out wanting to be automatic, and we know that’s going to be tough, so that’s the aim if you want for the staff, the players and the football club.”
So not about a sequence events, a manager change first and then a takeover second or a takeover and then a change of boss?
“No, as I previously stated, it’s about the owner Marcus Evans feeling at this moment in time that the right decision for the football club is to look at a new manager to try and give us some momentum going into the last 17 games of the season,” he continued.
O’Neill reiterated that Lambert’s departure is not related to a takeover: “I think it’s a coincidence in relation to what you’re talking about.
“This situation is not new, and it’s not just happened overnight. There have been some issues there that the manager has been unhappy with for a few months.
“I think he wants to do certain things quicker and that situation was there. There’s never a good time to change your manager in some aspects, winning or losing.
“So coincidental [regarding] the rumours around the ownership, that’s just a coincidence.”
Is it going to be tough for him to appoint a manager in the midst of takeover discussions? The new owners might not want the new man.
“I’m not really concentrating on that,” O’Neill added. “And I’m sure Marcus isn’t at the end of the day because our stance is that he’s not actively looking to sell the club.
“At the moment, it’s getting the right appointment of the manager for Ipswich Town Football Club now. Anything outside of that is obviously rumours that have already been explained or gone through. Our stance is as it is.”
Asked whether fans should fans have faith in Marcus Evans to appoint the right manager given his previous record, O’Neill said: “That’s a question for Marcus. He doesn’t just do it himself, and he’ll be counselling quite a few people. Some people at the football club himself and some people externally.
“I think that it is a very difficult appointment to make at a difficult time. Like I said, it’s not an easy appointment to do that. Just because it’s worked at one other club before doesn’t mean it will work at this club and so on. So there’s a lot of factors that go in place of making an appointment of a manager.”
Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.
You need to login in order to post your comments
Blogs 278 bloggers
Here We Go by tractorboykent
For a club recently described as Britain’s unhappiest, it may seem odd that Town fans are suddenly awash with optimism now that the deal is done.
One of the Strongest Squads? by NormEmerges
I keep hearing that ITFC has one of the strongest squads in League One. It’s certainly true that we have one of the biggest squads, but strongest? I would assume ‘strongest’ to mean ‘includes higher quality players for this league’. What do the facts tell us?
Tractor Boy on a Mission by wadey
As some of you may be aware, we lost our little boy Tyler on 1st April 2012, aged just 15 months old. There was no cause declared and he just passed away in his sleep. Since then, I’ve tried to raise as much money for charity in memory of him.
Damned Lies and Football Statistics? by bluesman
Football is possibly the most observed sport of all time, and there is plenty of statistical information available in the public domain to make some informed observations about clubs and managers, and their performance over the years.
From Marcus's Side of the Fence by essexccc
Most of the thinking, including my own, around the possible sale of the club, has quite naturally focused on the possibilities from the club's and supporters' points of view.
Ipswich Town Polls
[ Vote here ]