SHANE LONG has a "big part" to play in the rest of the season for West Brom, according to Baggies boss Steve Clarke, who has praised the Ireland striker for the way he has dealt with transfer speculation.
Long returned to training with WBA yesterday high on confidence after scoring in two of his previous three games, for his club against Chelsea and for Ireland against Latvia, his headed goal at Stamford Bridge significant as it was his first of the season at club level.
"There's been a lot of focus on Shane's contract situation in the media, but I look at Shane's performance against Chelsea and I don't think it's upsetting him too much," said Clarke, who is due to have contract talks with the Baggies in the New Year.
"His performance levels are good. He needs to concentrate on keeping those performance levels and the future will take care of itself.
"I've said all along that Shane will play a big part for us this season. That one game against Chelsea doesn't make it a big part, but it's a start. It shows what he can do for us.
"He had an interrupted start to this season and again he's just been away for an international break. But at least he got a chance to come off the bench and score another goal, and started on Tuesday. He's got back-to-back goals and hopefully he can get another goal when he next plays."