herald

Monday 24 September 2018

Long: It's a whole new ball game

O'Neill and Keane will give team fresh start says striker

Republic of Ireland's Shane Long. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Republic of Ireland's Shane Long. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

SHANE LONG has hailed the arrival of his boyhood hero Roy Keane as part of the new-look Ireland management team, saying he believes that the duo of Keane and Martin O'Neill will lead Ireland back to the glory days.

"We have a great management team in place and if we don't do it in the next campaign it's not the manager's fault, it will be the players' fault," Long told the Herald.

"Trapattoni lifted us up, we got to the Euros and were unbeaten for a long time.

"Now Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane have taken over a decent squad of players, I think all we needed was something new and fresh to get us back on track.

"We know it's hard to make it to a World Cup or the Euros, but I think we have the quality to achieve that."

With Keane and O'Neill off in Spain yesterday on TV duty, details of the plans for the Latvia and Poland games are scarce, Long even unaware of when the squad are due to report for duty in Dublin.

"We are all on our toes, every single player in the Irish squad, and that's probably not a bad thing," Long said.

"We have heard stories of what Roy was like as a manager but to me, he just expects every player to give their all and there's nothing wrong with that.

"All I ever do is my best, I turn up every time I am picked for the squad and do my best when I play, and I think that's all you can do for Roy Keane.

"The players know that, and it's good to have that strictness in the background, players know they have to give their all to stay involved.

"All we know, at the moment anyway, is that a 40-man squad was announced and some time soon that will be cut down to 22 or 23 for the friendly games, but no one knows if we'll be in there.

"I'm hopeful but I can't be sure, I don't think anyone can. It's a whole new beginning now. Under Trapattoni, it was tried-and-tested for most of the time, he stuck to the same squad more or less and you came in with a good idea of whether you were going to play or not.

"Now it's a whole new ball game and it will be good for us all.

"If I do get called in for the games next week, I see it as a chance for me to start all over again and to make sure that I am in the next squad and the one after that.

"I am really looking forward to coming in with Ireland next week. If I get selected, I want to make an impression and show what I can do.

"None of us know if we have made the cut for the squad yet, Roy and Martin are probably working that out at the moment," added Long.

Bench

The senior international experience of the 26-year-old began way back in 2007, under Steve Staunton. But, in reality, Long is still waiting for his Ireland career to start off, with few competitive starts or goals for the West Brom man, who was left on the bench for both games under caretaker Noel King last month.

"Towards the end of the last campaign I was playing a bit more, starting games up front with Robbie and things like that," says Long.

"So I was getting into the run of things at last but for me, this is a case of starting from scratch under a new manager.

"It's very exciting to get in a management team as big as that, Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane," Long added.

Even though they have only met in passing, Long and Keane share some traits: both from Munster, both missed the boat to England (football-wise) early in their careers and played League of Ireland football in Co Cork and wound up in the Premier League having started off with more modest clubs.

"It wouldn't be a bad thing for me to be compared to Roy Keane. We have some things in common: we're both from the country, we both played in the League of Ireland, I went to Reading first and he started off in England at Forest.

"He would prove himself year after year in the Premier League and that's something I want to do," says Long.

"Roy was a hero of mine from when I was a kid back in Ireland, watching him play for United and Ireland, I think we can only learn as players from working with someone like Roy Keane.

"Martin O'Neill has a great track record in management, it's a really exciting time for Irish football.

"It will be an interesting time ahead of the games coming up, when you come in with Ireland you only meet up for 10 days, most of us have never worked with Roy or Martin before so it's all a new experience.

"I can't say I know Roy or Martin first-hand.

"I would have come across Roy when I would have played against him a few times, I'd have been on the opposing side a couple of times when he was at Ipswich and Sunderland, but I never really got to speak to him off the pitch, that's something I am looking forward to."

So the work starts on the training ground in Dublin next week.

"Hopefully Martin and Roy already know what I am about as a player and know what my best position is, if that's something they are interested in hopefully they will take a gamble on me."

Confidence

Long admits that confidence in the previous squad had been low.

"After the Sweden and Austria games in September we knew the group was gone, heads were down and we didn't perform as well as we could have in the group.

"But it's all to play for now, we have two friendlies this month, more friendlies next year and then the next campaign in September.

"It will be hard to spend time next summer not being at the World Cup, playing friendly games against teams who are heading to Brazil but I think this will lift us all.

"It will be hard watching the World Cup on TV next summer and that will spur us on to do well in the Euros and get to France in 2016."

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