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Hassenhuttl talks up Long's importance

Shane Long

Shane Long may have played himself into contention for a new contract with Southampton as the Saints manager has been singing the praises of the Ireland veteran.

Long joined Southampton for a £12million fee in 2014 but his current deal runs out at the end of this season.

The 34-year-old has started just six of their 22 Premier League games this term and his future is still uncertain.

But boss Ralf Hassenhuttl has been making encouraging noises about Long.

"Shane Long is a really important player for us," said Hasenhuttl ahead of today's game at home to Wolves. "He's doing so well for us, he's always there, working so hard and he's so well-liked by the squad.

"He wants to play to the end and you can feel he's not resting with his energy on the pitch, he wants to leave everything out there on the pith.

"And it's a massive help for me because he's never saving energy, he's giving everything knowing that he will be spent when he comes off.

"It is all this kind of work that makes him so important for us" added Hassenhuttl.

James McClean has also been talked up by his club manager, Stoke City boss Michael O'Neill appreciative of his workrate.

"One thing about James is that he gives you everything he's got.

"By his own admission, last Saturday probably wasn't one of his better games but still, his work rate, application and energy is never in question," says O'Neill.

"I still think there's room for improvement and I think he knows still capable of playing better.

"It's good that he recognises that. He's a very important player for the team."

In transfer news, Republic of Ireland U-21 international Connor Ronan will spend the rest of the season with League One side Blackpool after he cut short his loan spell in Slovakia.

His Ireland U-21 team-mate Aaron Drinan is heading for Scotland after Ipswich Town agreed to loan him out to Ayr United. The former Waterford United player had been on loan to Swedish second-tier side GAIS last year.

And Wicklow native Simon Power, another current U21 cap, is on the move again, to English non-league side King's Lynn on loan from Norwich City after a disappointing spell in Scotland with Ross County.