WITH ROBBIE KEANE retiring back on a chaise lounge in Los Angeles and Kevin Doyle injured, Shane Long had an opportunity to bustle his way to the top of the Irish striker’s queue.
The West Brom forward was named, on Tuesday, in Giovanni Trapattoni’s starting XI to face Serbia in Belgrade.
Long was set to partner Jonathan Walters up front but Irish management had a change of heart and left the Tipperary native out of the team as a ‘precautionary’ measure.
The Irish Times reported today that Long did not take the decision to rest him too well and made a point of approaching the travelling press corp, twice, to let them know he was ‘fully fit’.
Trapattoni responded to Long’s assertions by saying the forward claimed he ‘felt pain’ in training and to say otherwise was “idiotic”.
The declaration, at the very least, should please fans of the Baggies as their side takes on Liverpool in the Premier League on Saturday.
With a pivotal season on the horizon, Long spoke to Beat 102-103 about scoring starts, coaches old and new, and the hurling chances of his home county.
New Hawthorn in town
Steve Clarke takes over from new England manager Roy Hodgson at West Brom and Long is hopeful that the Scot can pull one over his old employers, Liverpool, when the two sides meet this weekend.
“(Steve) plays a very attractive style of football,” said Long, “he was at Chelsea with Mourniho and he’s bringing that style of football into West Brom. We played really well against Nottingham Forest (last week) and we passed the ball really well. Hopefully we can bring that into our first game against Liverpool.” He added:
I have a good record scoring at Anfield. I didn’t get to play against them at the Hawthorns last season, but hopefully I will get off to a good start like I did last season and get a goal in my first game and kick on from there.
The 25-year-old has also experienced the coaching regime of new Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers as the pair were at Reading together for two years. He is aware of the slick football the Northern Irishman had Swansea playing but he is keen to deny his old coach a winning start to life at Anfield.
Familiar, royal faces
Long will be seeing more familiar faces in the Premier League this season following the return of Reading from the Championship.
He reveals that he is in touch with many of his former Royals teammates, including Adam Federici, and he wants the bragging rights come the season’s end.
“I am very close with everyone involved in the club down there,” he said, “and we have them sixth game of the season at the Hawthorns, I’d like to score in a way but I don’t think I would celebrate too much as I owe a lot of my career to Reading and all they have done for me, so it would be strange to score against them.”
The striker’s first season at The Hawthorns brought him eight goals in 32 games but Long would have been hoping for a greater return after scoring in his first two games.
Long (front-row, fourth from right) played in the Minor Hurling Championship with Tipperary. (©INPHO/Billy Stickland)
Once the season opener against Liverpool is confined to the record books, Long says he will turn his attention to the All-Ireland Hurling semi-final between Kilkenny and Tipperary.
“I have a lot of friends coming up from London to watch the Liverpool game,” he said. “A lot of Tipp friends and one Kilkenny man.
“I think a one point win for Tipp would be a nice result to rub it in, but it’s going to be a very tough game especially with Galway in the final for whoever wins.
“Living on the Kilkenny border it’s a bit more stressful for me.”