As a West Brom supporter and Irishman, there was a time where Shane Long was without a doubt my favourite player. In many ways, he has it all, he’s pacey, plays the lone striker role excellently, good in the air and has the ‘right place, right time’ instinct. On top of this he’s generally likable in the things he does outside of football (singing, hurling). However, what took me a while to realise after backing him for so long is that Long is unbelievably inconsistent. It’s a problem that drags him down as a player majorly.
Long’s inability to be an out-and-out goalscorer was explored mainly last season. Long had a very impressive 12-13 campaign after a bright start which included goals against Everton, Aston Villa, Manchester City, Sunderland and Chelsea, the fact that he only managed to bag eight goals was excused by a few injuries throughout the rest of the season and Romelu Lukaku’s contribution to the team with 17 goals.
When the beginning of the 13-14 season was among us, the general feeling was that this was Long’s year after a magical header against England that same summer. It emerged from the beginning that Shane Long and Nicolas Anelka didn’t quite click and Albion looked to bring in new attacking options in the form of Stéphane Sessegnon from Sunderland and Victor Anichebe from Everton on deadline day. This left Long surplus to requirements and almost went to Hull City for £5 million until Steve Clarke opted to keep the Tipperary native.
Long soldiered on and was resorted to a few sub appearances until being rocketed back into the starting line-up for games that included a controversial 2-2 draw away to Chelsea in which he got on the score sheet and a match against Aston Villa that can only be described as the best Long has ever played, scoring a beautiful first half brace.
Long’s form wore out again though and was eventually, perhaps wrongly sold to Hull City for a £7 million fee for the rest of the campaign. It may not have been the best decision on Albion’s best part with the sale leaving them with unproven strikers Matej Vydra, Thievy Bifouma, Saido Berahino and Anichebe, but they did manage to scrape a 17th place finish. Whether it would have been different with Long we do not know as Long only scored 4 goals with Hull in the second half of the season, rounding off his season total to seven goals.
There’s no doubt Long is a good player but how good he can be is frustrating, the Serbia game comes to mind where Long gets three glorious chances, scores the difficult one and bottle the other two. Long’s inconsistency and injuries will hold him back from succeeding Robbie Keane as Ireland’s main striker as the latter can still contribute well to the Irish team as Long can be kept out of the team by Keane to this day.
All taken into consideration, the mind boggles when I see Long being strongly linked to Southampton for £12 million today. There’s no doubt he is capable of doing a job for a team like Southampton but it seems no thought is being put into replacing the likes of Lambert and Lallana. From Hull’s point of view that money couldn’t be turned down but for Southampton it’s an odd bid. Long will take to Ronald Koeman’s system and work his socks off for the team but more than likely will not succeed Lambert’s goal tally.
Southampton obviously have money to burn at the minute but Long may not be the right choice to lead the line and from a player’s point of view, it doesn’t reflect well to sign for a new club and spend half a season with them.