Long: Euros no ego trip
Baggies striker says close bond in Irish squad can be big advantage in Poland
NO FIGHTS and no egos - Shane Long reckons that they are the pieces of the DNA of the Ireland squad which will help make the national team a success in the Euro 2012 finals this summer.
It's a sign of the times that if West Brom -- Long's current club -- ended up relegated at the end of this season along with Stoke and Wolves, more than a third of the Irish squad would be heading to Poland in June facing the dreaded prospect of Championship football next season with no Irish involvement in the Champions League next term.
But for Long, the strength of the squad is simply the people involved.
"We have been together for a long time now. It's been more or less the same squad for four years now so everyone knows everyone else, we have no egos," says the striker.
"We are all just happy to be playing for our country and that shows on the pitch. I think that's why we do so well, lads want to do it for each other, not just for themselves.
That even extends to the battle for a place in the Ireland team and it's odd that two of the main men who are fighting it out for the right to play alongside the undroppable Robbie Keane are room-mates and best mates, Long and Kevin Doyle.
"It never comes into it that we're fighting for the same place, business is business with us," says Long, who started for Ireland against the Czech Republic last week when Doyle was injured.
"If he's playing he knows I want him to do well. We are good friends off the pitch and that will never change, we've roomed together for the last few years.
"The only chance I usually get with Ireland is when Kevin's not there. He has done well for Ireland in the past, him and Robbie is a good combination and it will be hard to split them up.
"I hadn't started a game in a long time so it was good for me to play against the Czechs. I wasn't exactly in great form at that time so it was nice to get on the pitch and get 70 minutes under my belt. Hopefully the manager was happy with what he saw," added Long.
The Tipperary lad proudly points out that he's been named in every squad by national boss Giovanni Trapattoni since he took over, so Long can be fairly sure of a seat on the plane to Poland, but others won't be so lucky: only 23 players can travel and the recent addition of new boys James McClean and Shane Duffy leaves Trapattoni with a list of 27 real candidates.
"It's a nice problem for the manager to have, but it's tough as well because some people will miss out. You have the likes of Shane Duffy and James McClean playing well so there are options on the table," says Long. "I have been selected in every squad he's picked so far, so hopefully that won't change.
"I don't think anyone has their shirt cemented. Whoever is on form at the time will play and that's what I am aiming to do, have a good finish to the season, make sure I am fully fit travelling there and put pressure on the manager to play me.
"Competition like that is always good, I have always had that in my career -- at Reading and West Brom and in the Ireland set-up.
"Even if I don't play, that will push Kevin to play better and that is only good for the squad."