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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.”

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dirtydingusmagee added 14:54 - Mar 1
exactly as i said yesterday, it was nothing to do with ''takeover'' .. Lambert told Marcus a few home truths, he didnt like it , bye bye Paul. It also makes sense of the Cook rumours and why he is in line [if true] before sale of the club. Dont be surprised now to find Evans will stay put .

62WasBest added 14:55 - Mar 1
Question: "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?"

Reply "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."

Well, he was being asked about Evan's priorities, but O'Neill's reply was more general. Even given that, is O'Neill suggesting that wasn't also Lambert's priority ? My read of things is that Lambert wanted certain actions taken to make that more certain, and therefore quicker whilst Evans has a route in his head that is set in stone and resolute, and won't deviate from it, no matter what the situation on the ground suggests may be a better plan. i.e. Strategy versus tactics. No good general ever won a war by strategy alone.

Gcon added 14:55 - Mar 1
Extraordinary that given all that has gone on over the last few days, the owner remains silent. Highlights his inept, dispassionate leadership of our club.

dirtydingusmagee added 15:06 - Mar 1
looks like same old same old to me, New manager,same lack of funding, same thinking and ,yes ,almost certainly same outcome. Unfortunately looks like those already partying will have a big headache in the morning.

Edmundo added 15:13 - Mar 1
Not that I was against Lambert going, but Evans has an unfortunate knack of sacking staff when their personal circumstances are dire.

oldegold added 15:16 - Mar 1
With Evans we will go nowhere..the quicker he is out the club, the better. Investment investment investment...something that he has patently not done and will never do. He treats the fans like pariahs..no communication and no empathy at all. In these last few weeks there has been no comment from him, just denial in the last 24 hours. Not good enough and the club is dying around him...

tractorboybig added 15:16 - Mar 1
trouble is nobody believes a work ticket touts mouth piece says.
WARNING if evans selects the next manager then true to form we descend into oblivion?

BartonBluee added 15:25 - Mar 1
Like any fan I really hope we make the play-offs. I even dream of us making the top 2! But the fact of the matter is, it doesn't matter who comes in, because they won't get any support from the owner. So it is down to the players to pull their fingers out and get the job done.

It amazes me nowadays that all the focus is only on the managers and owners. Of course they have a huge part to play, and I would love an owner that is fully invested in our club but no-one ever mentions the players in any of this. They need to get out there and show all of us that they want it. They are more than capable of at least securing play-off football.

TractorCam added 15:28 - Mar 1
"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".

Talk about moving the goalposts, pretty sure we've heard about these bad few months in December, January, February and some this time last year!

londontractorboy57 added 15:34 - Mar 1
Well yet again the numbskulls have got their way yet again they have wished for something different lets hope it turns out better than the last time.
Personally I cant believe they have sacked a manager of a team on the cusp of the play offs.
This is all going to end in tears could we be the next Bury!!!

TimmyH added 15:45 - Mar 1
Get a grip londontractorboy57 - this all hails back to your boyfriend Mick Mc getting the boot! 'cusp of play offs' you say...well now you've said it we couldn't have dreamed to be in such a position :)

BangaloreBlues added 15:53 - Mar 1
There is so much more going on behind the scenes than any of us will ever know. There is too much speculation and guesswork on the part of us fans, myself included.

I think we all just need to take a breather and relax a little. Paul has gone, it was the thing we all wanted the most. Let's see now what transpires.

Personally, I have never said any bad word against ME. I am fully aware of the money he has put into the club and has kept us afloat for many years.

Yes, he has definitely been hiring the wrong managers for many years, but I feel quite sad for him. I don't think people are being particularly empathetic towards him, and he must be hurting a lot knowing he has put millions into this club but so many want him out. I think we should appreciate what he has done for this club, and not focus on what he hasn't done. I agree perhaps from a footballing perspective he has not been on the ball (excuse the pun) but I reiterate - we could easily - and seriously - have ended up like Bury if he was not here to keep the club afloat.

Just imagine if you had put £100 million of your own money into something but everyone around that something hates you and wants you out.... not a nice feeling.

Like everyone, I want what is best for this club. The take over talk is very exciting, but if there isn't one, I do not want ME to leave this club... now watch the down votes! :-)

Suffolkboy added 15:56 - Mar 1
Many , if not most ,of our supporters are people who love ITFC for all the right reasons ,and alongside hopes wish for a successful ,happy Club in continuing good relations with the supporters and community .
Underneath it all PL had a good heart , good intentions AND became increasingly frustrated by the inability to realise his vision . Unfortunately in every equation are the five basic elements of what, how, where, why AND when . The last of these itself has several aspects — most linked closely to all the rest ; which and what targets take priority , to which timescale , and of them how do you navigate and balance and judge success ?
Good relationships amongst everyone concerned are essential ,everyone( including supporters) needs to be taken along and to understand why there are interruptions and delay : PL became a very frustrated disheartened man , who either did not understand clearly enough his entire brief OR became frustrated by his own ‘failures ‘ and not being able either to change the brief or get his own way AND hit agreed targets .
No doubt greater detail will emerge over time ,but the immediacy is to find a man and a way to ACHIEVE the first target of promotion this season !
What additional personal attributes he brings , what fresh outlook he brings and how better he manages our assets and delivers are the sort of arms length questions to answer !
So let’s hope , let’s still display the traditional passion for our Club and above all replace the negativity with positivity and goodwill !

trncbluearmy added 15:57 - Mar 1
"He did the best job that he could do with the players that he had"

That's a clusterfeck of an interview.
But the above is outrageous he is defending a sacked manager by having a dig at the current players

BeattiesBackPocket added 16:00 - Mar 1
Londontractoryboy57 you are referring to yourself as numbskull or evans re read the interview it was evans’ decision he didn’t take any notice of any fans he told us to be careful what we wish for! EVANS makes the decisions at the club not the fans and look where we are because of that!

buzbyblue added 16:03 - Mar 1
Wouldn't surprise me to find out that all this takeover talk was "leaked" to the media to boost the upcoming season ticket release.,.....

Bluearmy_81 added 16:12 - Mar 1
I still think the takeover will happen but if it doesn't how long will it be before it's calls of 'Cook out' from fans?! If Evans stays Cook will be starved of resources as per usual and the result will be the same, underachievement and failure. Always the manager never the owner with Ipswich fans, even after 14 long years... 😂🤣

FromIpswichToPhoenix added 16:12 - Mar 1
I feel bad for Stuart in all this. The timing is garbage. Losing his dad and getting fired the same weekend is awful.

Draws_apoint_ added 16:19 - Mar 1
Bangalore Blue One of the sensible comments to be made agree Marcus Evans has made mistakes but at least we are still if lowly position to compete and looking over the shoulder at adminsration.

Draws_apoint_ added 16:21 - Mar 1
Sorry spelling administration .

BromleyBloo added 16:23 - Mar 1
While the time was right to change the manager - if you lose the fans then it’s time to go regardless - I actually have considerably more sympathy with PL than Evans, so the “thing I wanted and still want most” is Evans gone from ITFC ASAP!!! Given his dire record for 13 years - championship playoffs to league 1 mid table and our lowest league position for 60 years - it’s hard to see any possibility to progress until he is gone. No doubt he is busily writing up his new 5 year plan - doh!!!

PositivelyPortman added 16:29 - Mar 1
LON is getting on my t!ts now. He’s even more annoying than the last two dolts that Evans used to convey his half baked theories.

Cheshire_Blue added 16:30 - Mar 1
Yes, the numbskulls have won again but where will it lead ? As I said when McCarthy went 'time will tell' and it certainly has.

cleggo added 16:31 - Mar 1
hmmm, I wonder if their differences were over playing style. It's been well documented that there were meetings regarding a more possession based style of football in the summer, driven by ME.

I wonder if PL saw we weren't getting out this league following that approach (under his guidance) and wanted to go more direct and focus on results, as we've seen in the last couple of games...

minesapint added 16:32 - Mar 1
Why does he keep using the verb "counsel" when he obviously means "consult"?

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