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Town chief O’Neill on Blues’ medical department, transfer business and youngsters’ progress

PUBLISHED: 19:38 08 October 2020 | UPDATED: 22:32 08 October 2020

Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans (centre), manager Paul Lambert (left) and general manager of football operations Lee O'Neill. Photo: Steve Waller

Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans (centre), manager Paul Lambert (left) and general manager of football operations Lee O'Neill. Photo: Steve Waller

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Ipswich Town general manager Lee O’Neill has spoken on a wide range of issues in an interview with the club website.

O’Neill on... Town’s injury problems

O’Neill was asked about the injuries suffered by Flynn Downes and Stephen Ward at MK Dons last weekend, with the pair the latest to spend time on the sidelines at the start of the season.

Town’s general manager stressed the six-month lay-off during the coronavirus crisis has had a real impact on the club’s injury situation, which has seen the likes of Luke Woolfenden, Cole Skuse, Kane Vincent-Young, Kayden Jackson, James Norwood, James Wilson, Alan Judge and Aaron Drinan spend time out during the early weeks of the season.

“The medical staff and the fitness staff here are working really hard to minimise injuries,” O’Neill said.

Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans and general manager of football operations Lee O'Neill watch the game.
    Picture: Steve Waller       
www.stephenwaller.comIpswich Town owner Marcus Evans and general manager of football operations Lee O'Neill watch the game. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

“After a long lay-off where players haven’t been able to do what they normally do then going into a very condensed period of training on hard pitches mean the risks go up a little bit more.

“There’s not a lot we can do regarding contact injuries in games because that’s a risk that comes with playing football – a contact sport – but we’re trying really hard to minimise injury because the last thing we want is players out injured.”

O’Neill on... Town’s transfer window so far

So far during this ‘summer’ transfer window, Ipswich have brought in Oli Hawkins, David Cornell and Stephen Ward on free transfers while loaning in Mark McGuinness and Keanan Bennetts on loan deals.

It’s a window which has also seen interest in crown jewel Downes, with multiple bids rejected prior to the midfielder’s knee injury.

“So far I think we are – we’ve brought in three permanents and two loans and looked to add strength and experience in certain areas of the pitch.

“I think the players we’ve brought in have started extremely well but we have a long season ahead, so it’s important we have a strong squad to go up against all the things we may come across this season, be that injuries, coronavirus or performance. They all take a toll on the squad.

Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans and  general manager of football operations Lee O'Neill watch on.
    Picture: Steve Waller       
www.stephenwaller.comIpswich Town owner Marcus Evans and general manager of football operations Lee O'Neill watch on. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

“It’s important that we have that squad that’s as competitive as possible because we want to get out of the league as quickly as we can.

“We’re trying to keep hold of our best players for the benefit of the club going forward, so you have to look at that. Without any revenue coming in at the moment it’s incredibly difficult.

“Then there’s another layer on top with the squad and salary cap which bring other challenges. But we’re the same as every other club so it’s no good moaning about it.

“Our recruitment team are out working very hard to add strength with the budget which we have, so hopefully that gets us in a position for us to get out of the league as quickly as possible.

O’Neill on... young players going out on loan

Lambert has spoken regularly about the potential for young players, such as Armando Dobra, Corrie Ndaba, Brett McGavin and Ben Folami, to go out on loan to get vital experience.

“It’s a really important part of their development,” O’Neill said.

Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans and general manager of football operations Lee O'Neill pictured during the Bristol Rovers game.  
    Picture: Steve Waller     
www.stephenwaller.comIpswich Town owner Marcus Evans and general manager of football operations Lee O'Neill pictured during the Bristol Rovers game. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

“We saw the other night how playing in the stadium for a first-team can add to their development.

“If we stand back and look at what we’ve done with Luke (Woolfenden, Swindon) and Flynn (Downes, loan), getting games and then coming back and moving into the first-team.

“We’re looking at it but it has to be the right club. That’s not an easy process but we will look to explore that a little bit more.”

Lee O'Neill Paul Lambert and Marcus Evans watch the warm up before the game at Bristol Rovers. Picture Pagepix LtdLee O'Neill Paul Lambert and Marcus Evans watch the warm up before the game at Bristol Rovers. Picture Pagepix Ltd

O’Neill on... Young Town’s 2-0 victory over Gillingham

O’Neill, in his role as head of Town’s academy, has played a big role in the progression of young players at the club in recent years and was proud to see a new wave of youth take their first steps in the 2-0 victory over Gillingham on Tuesday night.

“I was very pleased with the performance, as were a number of coaches who have been involved in the journey those young lads have made,” he said.

“I was fortunate enough to be sat in the stands watching the game with Bryan [Klug, head of coaching and player development], Gerard Nash (U23s manager) and Adem Atay (U18s manager] and it was good to see.

“Of course, there are plenty more people that have been involved in the process that couldn’t be there because of the circumstances.

“It was a pleasing night and what’s important is that those young players now look to build on what they showed. If they can play to that level consistently then they will raise questions for the manager going forward and that’s what we want to see.”


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