'I do the morning feed before training' - Shane Long leaves 'madhouse' behind for trip to Prague
Published 23/11/2016 | 18:55
Shane Long hopes to inspire Southampton's bid to reach the Europa League knockout stages after leaving his newborn son for Thursday's visit to Sparta Prague.
Should they win at the Generali Arena and Hapoel Be'er Sheva not defeat Inter Milan, the Saints' progress from Group K will be secured, even with one remaining fixture at home to the Israelis in December.
Long's preparations for Thursday have included his nine-day old son Jax Anthony coming home for the first time - the forward already has two daughters - but he explained how becoming a father again had strengthened his professionalism and gave him the perspective required to succeed.
Asked if it had been difficult to leave his son behind, the 29-year-old said: "It has been tough. We had him last Monday. He is now nine days old. We didn't get him home until Sunday, so I've only had two or three days with him.
"It is amazing. It is a madhouse now with three kids under six but I'm loving every minute.
"My wife (Kayleah) knows I have to get up and train so I do the morning feed when I wake up but she looks after him in the night.
"The first (morning feed) I was all over the place but by now I like to consider myself an expert. I'm up anyway, I get up early and I'm up with the girls (Teigan and Erin), so it is nice to have another face to look after.
"I had my first at 23, and it does settle you down a bit. You tend not to venture out to town and different things like that as you have a family to go home to.
"The big thing is that when you have bad results and injuries you go home and forget about football again. No matter how good or bad you do, you are still their dad. It brings it back down to earth pretty quickly."
Long is expected to start for Southampton for the first time since suffering an injury in last month's 1-0 defeat at Inter Milan. Their captain Jose Fonte and Dusan Tadic have not travelled to Prague because of respective foot and nose injuries, while £16million record signing Sofiane Boufal faces a late fitness test having been ill earlier this week.
In September at St Mary's, Claude Puel's team convincingly overcame Sparta, winning 3-0, but the Czechs have since sacked Zdenek Scasny and won three from three in Europe with David Holoubek in charge on a temporary basis.
Discussing his options, Puel said: "Jose had a pain in his foot. He made a tackle against Liverpool and he cannot play. And also Dusan has a problem with his nose.
"For the moment it is a serious problem and I don't know if for the next game against Everton he can play with this but it is difficult.
"Sofiane this week was sick, and he came back just (on Thursday) morning. He travelled with us, and we're going to see if he can participate in this game.
"But in general, with Sofiane, we have to be patient with him, because he came back after five or six months (out)."