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3 February 2021

Lee on January recruits and why this season provides different approach

Lee O’Neill says Town had no other option than to use the loan market to add to the squad in the January transfer window but reiterates the Club’s stance to ‘develop our own’.

Youngsters Troy Parrott, Luke Matheson and Luke Thomas were signed on loan from Tottenham, Wolves and Barnsley respectively during the month, while Josh Harrop has also arrived on loan from Preston.

With the salary cap coming into play at the start of the season, Blues were already at the League One wage maximum of £2.5m when the window opened, meaning the focus was on younger players that were outside the restrictions of the cap. 

"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,” Lee, Town’s general manager of football operations, told 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.

“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 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.”

It was Town’s strong link with Tottenham in particular that paved the way for Troy to head to Portman Road on deadline day.

“We have got a really good relationship with Tottenham and that certainly helped with Troy coming here,” added Lee.

"Obviously 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.

“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.”

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