Thursday 27 October 2016

'Form of born-again Long a Euros boost'

Shane Long.Photo: Sportsfile
Shane Long.Photo: Sportsfile

At the age of 29 and after a decade in the Ireland set-up, Shane Long cannot be described as a late developer.

But Martin O'Neill feels that while Southampton forward may have been plagued by self-doubt at times in his career, Long is heading into Euro 2016 at his peak, still willing and able to learn from those around him.

Long had a major say in Euro qualification but was starved of starts in the campaign and had to make do mainly with cameo roles, but he's now in the form of his life, praised by managers at club and international level.

"I said way back, two and a half years ago, that of the squad I inherited, some of the players will make it through, there will be a number that falls by the wayside but hopefully during the course of time and involvement with us, they can improve," says O'Neill.

"Has Shane gone on to do it? I'm absolutely delighted he's done so.

"When he was in the squad at times I wondered if he had the great belief in himself at that stage and that was at club level. He was at Reading, West Brom, Hull, not at Hull that long, he might start to think 'do any of the club managers fancy me?'.

"So maybe he had that to overcome, my advice to him was quite simple, really, and at club level these are the things you might want to improve on. Shane has to take great credit for himself, He added.

"Shane coming in, his goal against Poland when he was only on the field a few minutes, that gives him a lift but the Germany game has definitely given him a lift, and his contribution since.

"I don't mean there was a contentment about Shane thinking 'Well, I'm not in the starting line-up, but maybe I can make a real impact as a sub'. But now he has taken that on, in the last three or four months and if he's going into a tournament, please heavens he stays fit for another game or two but if he stays fit until the Euros, than can only be good news for us.

"All the great centre forwards these days, they can't just score goals but they can also get hold of the ball and I think Shane has tried to do that. It might not be the most natural thing in the world for him and I think he's trying to do it."

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