herald

Sunday 4 December 2016

Long is ready for contract battles

Bohemians boss Keith Long
Bohemians boss Keith Long

With no European football to use as a carrot for next season, Bohemians boss Keith Long admits he faces a battle to keep the club's in-demand players at Dalymount Park.

But Long hopes that key players, like Shane Supple, Kurtis Byrne and Ismahil Akinade, could be persuaded to stay on for one more year at least.

Currently seventh in the table, a fifth-place finish is the best that the Gypsies can hope for, though a haul of nine points from three games (Galway United away tonight, Wexford Youths and Longford Town at home next week) would help, but there will be no Europa League next year.

Bohs have already lost Ayman Ben Mohamed (now in Tunisia) and key men Supple, Byrne, Akinade, Roberto Lopes and Stephen Best will be sought after by other clubs.

"Negotiations have already started with the players that we hope to keep at Dalymount but it can be difficult," says Long ahead of tonight's date in Galway.

"We have spoken to a number of players, some of them have already been linked with a move away and it can be a bit of a silly season, trying to keep the players you want and also identify the players you think could make the group stronger for next season.

"I know that other clubs can offer European football and are full time so it will not be easy. It's up to me to try and convince those players that they can realise their ambitions here. I have a good relationship with the players and I hope that counts for something, but at the same time I am realistic, that if another club offers one of our players full-time football and the chance to play in Europe, it might make up their minds for them."

Akinade hasn't played for the side in over a month as he tries to recover from a blood condition but while the striker won't be available for tonight's trip to Galway, Long hopes to have Akinade back for Monday's game with Wexford. "He will have another blood test today but hopefully he'll get the all-clear to be back in the squad," says Long. "You will always miss a player like Izzy as he gives a different dynamic to the team and leads the line well, he was coming into a decent run of form before the illness, but Kurtis Byrne has come in and done really well."

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