Long insists West Brom in top three on merit
SHANE LONG believes West Brom's position in third place in the Premier League is no fluke and is down to new manager Steve Clarke as well as competition for places.
The Ireland international has been in sparkling form this season with four goals in his last eight starts, but, with West Brom going to Swansea tonight looking for a fifth consecutive victory, Long isn't about to get complacent.
"It's one of those periods where everything's going well for me. I need to make sure I'm right for every game on and off the pitch.
"We have a lot of competition like Romelu Lukaku, who is only 19 but his attitude to the game is very good and he's a gifted footballer. He's trying to start every game and I'm trying my best to keep him out.
"The manager knows what system will win games. He's not afraid to change it if necessary, like he did when we played two up front against Wigan and won that game.
"But at the same time he's not afraid to share the load as well. He keeps me on my toes. I know I have to perform at my best every week."
Long also hailed the impact of Clarke's training, which has helped West Brom to their best start in the top flight in 32 years.
"We train all week long, all the sessions are brilliant and we learn every week," said Long. "We have four or five sessions in the week where we're prepared for the team we're playing against and it shows on a Saturday."
Clarke revealed yesterday that he had received messages of support from Jose Mourinho but insists he is his own person when it comes to management. Clarke worked as number two to Mourinho and Avram Grant at Chelsea and had spells under Ruud Gullit and Bobby Robson (Newcastle), Gianfranco Zola (West Ham) and Kenny Dalglish (Liverpool).
"Jose sent me a little text before the game at the weekend. It was a nice text," he revealed. "There were some good things in it, although it's private between me and Jose."