Shane Long’s career has been anything but straight forward, with the Republic Of Ireland striker having to work hard for his chance for success.
After the former Cork City star had been plying his trade at Reading, he was finally granted his reward at West Brom, where he showed the world that he could play at the highest level. Although he is not a consistent goal scorer like fellow Irishman Robbie Keane, he is extremely versatile.
Reading proved to be the making of Long, with the 29-year-old spending six years with the Royals. He was only a youngster when they were first in the Premier League in 2006, and Long was allowed a few chances to prove himself.
Sadly his game at that time did not revolve around goals, with the Irishman sitting in the shadow of fellow Irish star Kevin Doyle. It meant that Long had to work extra hard, and did not get a chance to prove himself as much as he perhaps would have liked to.
However, unlike many of the players, Long stayed at the Madjeski and continued to work hard, gradually improving his goal tally. His best season at Reading proved to be his last, where he netted 21 goals in 44 games, with the team getting into the play-offs, only to lose to Swansea.
It was this form that caught West Brom’s attention, and Long was soon travelling to the Midlands, where he established himself in the first team alongside Peter Odemwingie. Again, Long struggled for goals, but still played a key part in helping the Baggies finish 10th. The following season saw Long partner Romelu Lukaku up top, and West Brom finished 8th that season, highlighting that Long was becoming an integral player.
Many were shocked when the Irishman decided to ditch the comforts of the Hawthorns for the relegation scrap at Hull, but in 15 games, he linked up with Nickica Jelavic to score four goals, which helped to push Hull to 16th, one point off West Brom.
Many Southampton fans were shocked when Saints and Ronald Koeman coughed up £12million for the striker, and he certainly had big shoes to fill. With the sale of Rickie Lambert to Liverpool in 2014, many on the South Coast thought they would be plummeting back down to the Championship. But when given the chance, Long excelled and proved he was capable of being a key player for the Saints, too.
Koeman never really gave Long a chance in his first season, preferring to play Pelle as a lone striker. But this season, in 18 games, Long has got six goals. As a player, if the belief is put in him, he can become much better and far more deadly in front of goal.
With strikers hard to come by, if Long has a good summer for Ireland in France, then there is no reason why he cannot get a move to a bigger team.