Respected striker

Shane Long’s character as well as his goals are earning him rave reviews and attracting admiring glances from around the Premier League, and West Brom will be desperate to hold on to its prized asset, writes Tim Groves.

Shane Long is building a reputation as one of the most respected strikers in the English Premier League and his goals and general good form have been instrumental in West Bromwich Albion’s impressive start to the season.

The Republic of Ireland international, who has scored eight goals for his country so far, has impressed at the Hawthorns since arriving from Reading for GBP6 million in the summer of 2011 and will be looking to help the club improve on its 10th-place finish last season.

Long has been key to the tactics employed by new manager Steve Clarke and, as well as being ably supported by the likes of Peter Odemwingie and on-loan Romelu Lukaku at times, he has often been deployed as a lone striker and asked to hold the ball up and unselfishly bring others into play more.

Long, 25, has not lost his keen eye for goal though and it is a trait that can be traced back to his teenage years, when he was also a promising forward in the sport of hurling and appeared in two All-Ireland Minor Hurling Championship semifinals at Croke Park in Dublin.

He has come a long way from Tipperary, the team he represented in the traditional Gaelic sport, though. After spending a short period at Cork City, he was snapped up by Reading at the same time as fellow-Ireland international Kevin Doyle and the pair both went on to shine for the club in the Championship.

Long scored 46 goals in a total of 174 appearances for Reading but his standout season was 2010/11, when he was named both the club’s player of the season and the Football Association of Ireland’s young international player of the year.

He finished as the club’s top-scorer with 25 goals in all competitions and helped Reading to reach the play-offs but they suffered a 4-2 defeat to Swansea in the final. His goal-scoring record amounted to a goal every two games that season and that was enough to persuade Roy Hodgson to stump up a club-record transfer fee to take him to West Brom.

It didn’t take him long to get up and running as he scored in both of his first two matches against none other than Manchester United and Chelsea.

After scoring eight goals in his first season at the Hawthorns, Long has now become more of a fixture in the Irish international set-up and has now played 32 times for his country but will have been disappointed to feature just twice as a substitute in his first major tournament at UEFA Euro 2012 as Ireland lost all three of their group games and crashed out at the first hurdle.

Long has bounced back to show some good early-season form for the Baggies though in both the EPL and the League Cup. One of his goals helped West Brom to a 2-1 victory over European champions Chelsea recently and he revealed a T-shirt with a tribute to his late grandmother after scoring. She had died just days earlier but Long did not tell many of his team-mates and played despite his grief, before jetting off to the funeral the next day.

The Irishman’s character as well as his goals are earning him rave reviews and attracting admiring glances from around the Premier League, and West Brom will be desperate to hold on to their prized asset in January and beyond.

The hard-working striker has shown no signs of wanting a move away though and if he and the club can continue their impressive form, there will be no reason for Long to look elsewhere and he could even be playing in Europe at the Hawthorns next season.

Long was sidelined for part of last season with a serious knee injury after he was the victim of a strong challenge from Alan Hutton in a West Midlands derby against Aston Villa.

Long is engaged to model Kayleah Adams, who is from Reading, and the couple have a young daughter. It is not known what car Shane Long drives now but his BMW was involved in a serious crash back in 2010.

FACTFILE Name: Shane Long Position: Striker Club: West Bromwich Albion D.O.B.: 22/01/1987 Ireland caps: 32 Ireland goals: 8

Moment to remember: Long scored on his debut for West Brom against Manchester United in August 2011.

Moment to forget: Long will be disappointed to have featured very little in the Republic of Ireland’s disappointing Euro 2012 campaign.

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