Aidan O'Hara: Is Viduka Syndrome cause of Long's surge?
GIVEN his wholehearted commitment to every cause, tackle and header, it's almost impossible to question Shane Long's attitude, but for a striker whose contract is expiring at the end of the season, his two goals on live television against Aston Villa last week could hardly have been better timed.
The Ireland striker never seems to give less than his best but it remains remarkable how the expiration of a contract can spark a striker into goal-scoring form in a phenomenon known as Mark Viduka Syndrome.
In terms of sacrificing yourself for your team-mates and chasing lost causes, Viduka and Long could scarcely be further apart but the Australian was a master at making his goals tally go up at a time when the days remaining on his contract were ticking down.
At Leeds in 2003, Viduka hit seven Premier League goals from August until mid-March as the club continued their downward spiral from Champions League to Championship.
As the club's problems became more obvious, the Premier League vultures began to circle for bargains and it was at this point that Viduka came into his own with a phenomenal 13 goals in nine games to help temporarily delay Leeds' relegation.
Two of those 13 goals came against Middlesbrough which helped earn him a lucrative move to Teeside as he grabbed hold of one of the few lifeboats after Leeds hit the financial iceberg.
Viduka's three seasons at Boro weren't exactly a roaring success but, again, he managed to find form at just the right time for his club and himself.
Seven Premier League goals from August to March wouldn't have earned him much of a move but he managed to double that tally in the final six games as Middlesbrough took 10 points from a possible 18. Having done his bit, eventually, to help Middlesbrough finish 12th, Viduka then skipped across the north east of England to Newcastle on a free transfer.
A charitable way of looking at Viduka Syndrome would be that a certain type of striker needs the flight or fight adrenalin rush of a potential relegation battle to get himself going. A more realistic one is that the looming spectre of a serious financial hit tends to focus the mind.
Of course, such a scenario is mutually beneficial for club and player even if, as in Middlesbrough's case with Viduka, he ends up leaving having helped to keep them in the Premier League.
Long's potential £5m move to Hull CIty during the last transfer window seems no less peculiar with the passing of time but, equally, linking him with teams in the Champions League seems far-fetched on the basis of a couple of excellent goals against Aston Villa.
Long is undoubtedly a player who is capable of giving any central defender an extremely uncomfortable 90 minutes but the perfect storm of a contract expiring in the summer (which West Brom have an option to extend anyway) and two goals in a game shown on Sky Sports, have elevated him to links with Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham, which seem as implausible a leap forwards as Hull would have been backwards.
The option to extend Long's deal by a further 12 months means West Brom are in an ideal position because they can either offer him a new long-term deal or give him the contract extension and then sell him in the summer when his value is higher.
Before the two goals against Villa, Long had three goals in 22 West Brom appearances, several of which were, admittedly, from the bench, but such is the improvement that a player playing for a new deal can have that it's a wonder more clubs don't try the tactic of offering shorter-term deals for short-term goals.
Manchester City paid £25m for Emmanuel Adebayor but once the initial sheen wore off, his form dipped and he was sent out on loan where, unsurprisingly, he rediscovered his ability to score goals.
Like Viduka, a charitable view would be that Adebayor needed a new challenge but seven goals in 21 games for Real Madrid (which included just nine starts) followed by a season-long loan to Tottenham in which he started with three goals in two games and finished with four in three suggested that he was worth signing.
When Tottenham eventually did part with £5m plus £100,000 a week to secure Adebayor's services (while City continue to pay him roughly £40,000 a week), they were rewarded with one goal, one yellow card and one red card in his opening 10 league games.
Tottenham hope to off-load Adebayor in January which is perhaps why Andre Villas-Boas seems content to bring him back into the fold in the hope that an impending transfer window will inspire him.
Arsene Wenger must have been hoping to use similar tactics with Nicklas Bendtner, whose £60,000-a-week contract has only a few months left to run.
This time last season, Theo Walcott was in a similar situation and responded with 10 goals in 10 games and signed a three-and-a-half-year deal worth £100,000 a week.
If Bendtner can produce anything like the form of Walcott or even Long to inspire another team to sign him when his contract expires in May, even Viduka would have to be impressed at such perfect timing.
Tweets of the week
Shane Long (@shanelong009)
And will be giving Roy a call tomorrow :-) #rememberwembley
After the West Brom striker's two goals he responds to a Twitter campaign (above) that he should be called up by England
Steven Reid (@stevenreid12)
Never been a fan of Zonal marking #Celtic #Kaka
Former Ireland international risks the wrath of the football hipster after watching Kaka put Milan into the lead
Michael Carrick (@carras16)
Have to say, that's the utd we know right there. Best I've seen us for a while. To a man we were bang on. Giggsy hahaha how old ???
Injured Manchester United midfielder enjoys watching his team-mates hammer Leverkusen
James McClean (@JMcC_23)
So fustrating that the night! Only have ourslves to blame, people get fustrated but dont agree with fans booing/cheering jordi bein subbed..
Wigan winger unhappy with the crowd's treatment of his substituted team-mate
Joseph Barton (@Joey7Barton)
Respect him as a player. But as a man, you don't do that to your own. He's a wrongun in my book.
QPR midfielder less than impressed with some of Ryan Giggs' off-pitch activities
If you all want to put Giggs on a pedestal, then thats your right. I am merely pointing out that what he did was as low as it gets.
In the mildest tweet of the batch, Barton continues his attack on football's most famous 40-year-old
Asmir Begovic (@asmir1)
The finish in the Alabama Auburn game is the best finish I have ever seen to a football game! Wow! #areyoukiddingme
Some US college football helps the Stoke goalkeeper get over the previous day's mauling by Everton
The question nobody asked
How many teams from Ryan Giggs' debut season are still in the Premier League?
THE Premier League didn't exist when Ryan Giggs made his debut in March 1991 against Everton, and the fortunes of several teams in the 20-team league of the 1990/91 season have varied wildly. Manchester United, obviously, have enjoyed a stunning period of success, while Arsenal, Liverpool, Aston Villa, Everton, Tottenham and Chelsea have remained in the top flight for the entirety of Giggs’ career. Those that have been up and down include Crystal Palace (3rd in Giggs’ first season), Manchester City (5th), Southampton (14th), Norwich City (15th) and Sunderland (19th). Of the others, Leeds (4th), Nottingham Forest (8th), QPR (12th), Sheffield United (13th) and Derby County (20th) now find themselves in the Championship. Further down the tiers, Coventry City (16th) are now in League One, while Luton Town (18th) have fallen furthest as they are now in their fourth season in the Conference. Wimbledon, seventh in Giggs’ first season, are no longer in existence.
Bet you should have done
Aaron Ramsey anytime goalscorer – 11/4
Before Saturday, Aaron Ramsey had scored six goals in 12 league games, which is a better percentage than the 11/4 odds which were being offered for him to score anytime against Cardiff.
Add to that the form he has been in, his desire to do well against his former club and the need for Arsenal to gain all three points and his near 3/1 odds became quite generous.
As it turned out, by half-time, the bet would have already come to fruition with a second goal thrown in later on just to be sure.
Soccer on TV
TONIGHT – Fiorentina v Verona, Serie A, BT Sport 2, 6.0; Glentoran v Portadown; Irish Premiership, Sky Sports 1, 7.45; Lazio v Napoli, Serie A, BT Sport 1, 8.0
TOMORROW – Lille v Marseille, Ligue 1, ESPN, 6.0; Crystal Palace v West Ham, Premier League, BT Sport 1, 8.0; Nice v Monaco, Ligue 1, ESPN, 8.0
Wednesday – Ajaccio v Bastia, Ligue 1, ESPN, 6.0; Swansea City v Newcastle United, Premier League, BT Sport 1, 7.45; Evian TG v PSG, Ligue 1, ESPN, 8.0;
Thursday – Gateshead v Oxford United, FA Cup, BT Sport 1, 7.45; Lyon v Toulouse, Ligue 1, BT Sport 1, 8.0; Sampdoria v Verona, Coppa Italia, ESPN, 8.0
Friday – Nuremberg v Mainz, Bundesliga, ESPN, 7.30; Motherwell v Celtic, Scottish Premiership, BT Sport 1, 7.45; Bologna v Juventus, Serie A, BT Sport 2, 7.45
Saturday – Derby County v Blackpool, Championship, Sky Sports 1, 12.15; Man Utd v Newcastle United, Premier League, BT Sport 1, 12.45; Livorno v AC Milan, Serie A, BT Sport 2, 5.0; Sunderland v Tottenham Hotspur, Premier League, Sky Sports 1, 5.30; Borussia Dortmund v Bayer Leverkusen, Bundesliga, BT Sport 1, 5.30; Lorient v Rennes, Ligue 1, BT Sport 2, 7.0; Kansas City v Real Salt Lake, MLS Cup final, BT Sport 2, 9.0
Sunday – Roma v Fiorentina, Serie A, BT Sport 2, 11.30; Bordeaux v Lille, Ligue 1, ESPN, 1.0; Fulham v Aston Villa, Premier League, Sky Sports 1, 1.30; Torino v Lazio, Serie A, BT Sport 2, 2.0; Tamworth v Bristol City, FA Cup, ITV, 2.0; Freiburg v Wolfsburg, Bundesliga, BT Sport 1, 2.30; Arsenal v Everton, Premier League, Sky Sports 1, 4.0; Bastia v Lyon, Ligue 1, BT Sport 2, 4.0; Braunschweig v Hertha Berlin, Bundesliga, BT Sport 1, 4.30; Inter Milan v Parma, Serie A, BT Sport 1, 7.45; Monaco v Ajaccio, Ligue 1, BT Sport 2, 8.0