'Loans were needs-must... they will add quality' - O'Neill on Town's January business
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Town's general manager of football operations, Lee O'Neill, says the club's four January loan additions will 'add quality to the squad'.
Striker Troy Parrott (18) and right-back Luke Matheson (18) arrived from Premier League clubs Tottenham and Wolves on transfer deadline day, with attacking midfielder Josh Harrop (25) and winger Luke Thomas (21) having been added from Championship clubs Preston and Barnsley earlier in the window.
With Mark McGuinness (Arsenal) and Keanan Bennetts (Borussia Monchengladbach) already here for the season, the Blues - currently 11th in League One table at the halfway stage of the campaign - now have six loan players.
"People might ask why we have gone into the loan market when we said before that we didn’t want to bring in loans and that we wanted to develop our own players but the fact is, the football landscape has changed so much over the past year that we had no choice,” said O'Neill, speaking to the club website.
"The Covid pandemic and what’s resulted from that is one aspect and certainly the introduction of the salary cap has had a major impact.
"It is going to be a very challenging fixture schedule, with a lot of Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday games over the second half of the season, and we felt that we needed to add some strength in depth in certain areas.
“We were right at the maximum on the salary cap going into January so it was always going to be a challenge to get players in with the restrictions we are under. It’s not just us, every club faces the same issues and that’s why 70 per cent of the deals done in January were loans.
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"Every club in League One and maybe League Two have had to go into the loan market. It’s a needs-must situation.
“We knew that we would be looking at players that are under 21 (who are exempt from the salary cap) but we also wanted those players to have first-team experience and that were readily available to go now and play straightaway and we are delighted with the players we have been able to bring in.
“They will add quality to the squad and they will be competing for a first-team place and not just here to provide cover.
“Obviously with Keanan (Bennetts) and Mark (McGuinness) already here on loan we now have six loanees and we can only have five in a matchday 18, so that will take some managing, but we have spoken to the clubs and they understand the situation and they have all been great. I want to go on record and express my thanks to all the clubs that we have worked with to make all our loan deals happen."
Meanwhile, O'Neill said Town's strong links with Tottenham enabled the club to win the race to sign Parrott - a highly-rated young Irish striker who had made his international and Premier League debuts at the age of 17.
“We have got a really good relationship with Tottenham and that certainly helped with Troy coming here,” said O'Neill.
"Obviously (academy coach) Bryan (Klug) has been at Tottenham and has got those links and Troy knows some of the other staff here as well.
“He’s has been at the training ground before. We have played games against Tottenham here at academy level and he’s a lad we have been aware of for a while, going back to the days when he would come over as a young lad from Ireland.
"He spent the first half of the season on loan at Millwall and wants to get some more game time over the rest of the season. He had a lot of options so we’re delighted he wanted to come here."
Town have given more minutes to homegrown players than most in League One so far this season and O'Neill says that remains a key part of the long-term plan.
He added: “We have got some promising young players coming through the ranks and it will remain one of the cornerstones of the club that we look to develop our own young players and give them a chance to progress into first-team players here.
"But, as I said earlier, this year is different and we face the most testing fixture schedule over the next few months and we need players that have had the experience of playing first-team football.”