‘The pull of League One isn’t as appealing... They’ve got to want to play for Ipswich Town’ – O’Neill on transfer frustrations

Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans (left) and general manager of football operations Lee O'Neill. Photo

Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans (left) and general manager of football operations Lee O'Neill. Photo: Steve Waller - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Ipswich Town’s general manager of football operations, Lee O’Neill, says he is a relieved man after today’s 5pm transfer window closed. Here’s what he had to say about the club keeping key men and the search for three more.

Q: How did Paul Lambert airing his transfer frustrations publicly in last week's press conference go down in the corridors of power?

A: As Paul has come out and said, and as Marcus has rightly said in his statement, I think we all get frustrated at times when we'd like things to move slightly quicker.

I don't think it was anything we didn't expect Paul to say. We'd had conversations through the week.

He's trying to get his squad ready for the season which, as we all know, is going to be a hard season.

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There are one or two things he would like to happen as quickly as possible.

Q: Is it a good working relationship between Marcus and Paul?

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A: One hundred per cent. I'm very fortunate enough to sit in just about all the meetings between Marcus and Paul and they are both highly driven people. They both want to succeed.

As Paul rightly said, they'll have a difference of opinion on things sometimes, but ultimately they both want the best for the club and the wider community.

It's important that they do talk and challenge each other. Paul will always want more investment in the squad and for things to change infrastructure-wise. Marcus is trying very hard to deliver on those things.

Q: What's Paul's role in transfers?

A: He's involved in every conversation about players. There would be no point us bringing a player to the club that the manager doesn't want.

Marcus is the businessman and understands the economic side of things. From my point of view, when Marcus isn't here, I'm here to try and help us do those deals and get them to the point where we can get them over the line.

It's got to work business-wise for the club and football-wise.

It's a triangle approach. We all work together. Yes, we have differences of opinion on players, but that's the game.

We definitely try and get the deals done for Paul's benefit.

Q: Why are deals not being done? It's now almost three weeks since Paul Lambert said he wanted to sign three more players.

A: It's not easy (to sign players) - it really isn't.

We are having incredibly difficult conversations with players because they want to play at the very highest level possible they can.

We're working through it. Things aren't finished by any shape or form. We're trying to address the areas where we think the squad needs help.

Yes, the transfer deadline finishes for some clubs today, but it carries on for us (deadline is September 2).

Q: Is there enough money available to sign the players Paul wants?

Marcus knows that investment is important. He's said we'll try and make it available where possible.

But it's got to be the right deal for the football club. It's about not paying over the odds for players in League One.

If we do get promoted, we have to have the long-term sustainability of the club in mind.

So there are lots of different factors involved. As Marcus said, it's not just about throwing loads of money at it for a quick fix. We're looking at building a squad for a longer period of time.

Q: The big money sales of Matt Clarke, Tyrone Mings, Adam Webster and Kieffer Moore have raised a lot of money for the club in sell-on fees this summer. Why has that not gone to Paul to spend?

A: I think you only have to look at Marcus' comments yesterday. It might look like a lot of money coming in at once, but it doesn't happen that way. It arrives over a long period of time. It's not money that's readily available at this moment in time.

Q: Paul has said, categorically, that he doesn't want to go down the loan players route if possible. Is that realistic?

A: We would agree with the principles of that. You don't want a team full of loans because you investing in other peoples' players.

But, at times, they are a useful part of the squad and do contribute. I think to get the balance right you have to consider all options.

Loans allow us to get the quality of player that we need, possibly on the shorter-term contract, to get us to the next stage.

So I don't think we it's something we can write-off and just say 'we'll never have loan players'. I think we have to look at what's coming through underneath, what injuries we have... There are loads of different situations we have to be aware of.

The reason why players go out on loan is to play football matches. We've got a lot of injured players coming back and hopefully, over the next few weeks, the squad will look healthier.

Q: How close are you to making some signings?

A: We're working on it! It's been a busy summer. We're working incredibly hard to try and get the right deals for the football club. It's not just about all of a sudden now panicking, it's something we've been working on a while.

We hope to get them in as soon as we possibly can.

Q: Are you confident it will happen?

A: I'm confident we can do what is best for the football club. Everyone just has be patient with the process. There are a lot of negotiations.

Going back to the point I made earlier on, any player that comes to the football club has got to want to play for Ipswich Town and not just fill a gap for a short period of time.

Q: Have there been any calls made about Andre Dozzell today?

A: No.

Q: But there has been interest in him during this window?

A: We've got some really good young players and, as I've said before, if the phone wasn't ringing about them then I would be a bit worried.

We've had interest from a number of clubs in our young players. Fair dos to Marcus, we've kept them, because that's the plan - to give them the experience of playing lots of games, unlike previous seasons, and then evaluate if they are good enough or not.

At the moment they are all Ipswich Town football players and that's the plan going forwards.

Q: Are you relieved now today's 5pm window has closed?

A: You've read the article that Marcus put out yesterday - we've tried very hard to protect our assets. We want to try and learn from previous mistakes. I'm glad this window has shut because it makes sure that some of our assets won't be going out the building.

Hopefully after today Premier League and Championship clubs will know where they are at with their squads and that will free up players to move on - which makes things for us a bit easier.

Things won't happen overnight. It's going to take time. Yes, we are looking to strengthen areas of the squad. Now this window has closed we're in a very different position.

Q: Have players turned down the chance to sign here?

Financially we are matching most of the deals that are going on. Sometimes it just comes down to the aspirations of the player.

Sometimes we get to a point where it comes down to the player deciding they want to play in the highest league they can. The pull of playing in League One isn't as appealing as the Chamnpionship.

You want players who want to come and try and achieve something with us. Paul, Marcus and myself want players who can drive the club forwards.

Q: It looks as if the club is looking to sign 'squad' players - asking someone to come in and compete, for example, with James Norwood. Does that make negotiations difficult?

A: It can do. There are no guarantees about anyone playing every week - it's up to them to convince the manager they are worthy of a place in the starting line-up.

When you look at loans there can be things in contracts where they want guarantees and you can't guarantee anything in football.

At the end of the day a player should back themselves to be good enough to get in the team.

Q: Danny Mayor was someone the club talked to. He chose to be join Plymouth in League Two (to be reunited with his former Bury boss Ryan Lowe) rather than come here...

A: I'm not going to comment on Danny or anybody's individual situation. I'm just going to reiterate the point that there are no guarantees to anyone that they will play - they have to prove themselves to the manager.

The second thing is that they've got to want to play in League One to get us out of League One.

That's the same for the players currently here or new players coming in.

Q: Will Ipswich loan out any players?

A: That decision will happen once we've looked at the status of the injured players coming back and whether they can sustain the level that we would like.

Then we'll look at where we're at with the squad in general and decide which players maybe go out on loan.

We'll look at last season's situation with Woolfy (Luke Woolfenden going to Swindon) and how that is now benefitting us now.

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