Best's Euro blow
LEON BEST'S slim hopes of making the Ireland squad for the Euro 2012 finals have taken a major hit with the news that the striker will not be fit for the friendly against the Czech Republic later this month as he will be sidelined for six weeks.
But there is some good news for Ireland in terms of striker as Shane Long is fit again and poised to reclaim his place in the West Brom side for their local derby with Wolves next weekend.
Best has been in good form for Newcastle in recent weeks, though his place in the side did appear to be under threat from the arrival of new signing Papiss Cisse and Newcastle were willing to allow Best move to Celtic on loan before the former Coventry City man pulled out of the proposed deal.
But he has struggled to catch the attention of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni and has not played for his country in almost two years, his last cap coming in the friendly defeat to Brazil in London in March 2010.
He had only a slim chance of making the squad for the February 29th game at home to the Czech Republic, but the injury which forced Best out of action just 16 minutes into yesterday's win over Aston Villa will definitely see Best ruled out, a major blow to the player. "Leon has got a medial ligament injury, which is usually a six-week lay-off," said Newcastle boss Alan Pardew. "He's hurt his medial ligament but we hope he's going to be ok."
Meanwhile Long is back to fitness, a much-needed boost for West Brom boss Roy Hodgson as well as Trapattoni ahead of the Czech Republic game.
Long, 25, has not started a game for the Baggies since New Year's Day and played no part at all in the last two games, including Saturday's 2-1 defeat at home to Swansea, but he hopes to be fit for action next weekend in a must-win derby against Wolves.
"Hopefully I will be ready for the Wolves game," said Long, who underwent tests after he complained of chest pains last week.
"It wasn't nice having all the wires coming off me when I had the tests. But it was a case of making sure that everything was ok."