Tipp lucky charm gets Long back on target
The so-called luck of the Irish has rarely been so mixed for West Brom striker Shane Long. After the agony of missing the Republic of Ireland's Euro 2012 play-offs through injury, Long quickly returned to top form after rediscovering his lucky charm in the form of a wrist band bearing the colours of Tipperary.
The 24-year-old was a surprise inclusion in Roy Hodgson's side after he suffered a chipped bone and severe bruising from a tackle by Villa's Alan Hutton last month. His injury had threatened to rule him out for up to eight weeks, but an energetic performance on Saturday banished fears of a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
Long was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet early on when a well-timed block by Gary Cahill denied him. But Long's header from a well-executed Nicky Shorey cross put Albion in control early in the second half after Ivan Klasnic's penalty ruled out Jerome Thomas's 16th-minute goal.
"To score the goal was massive for me," Long said. "It's been a long four weeks for me and all I wanted to do was get back out on the pitch again and play football. I kept my head over the last three or four weeks -- although the medical staff had to put up with a few rants and raves.
"When I heard it would be six weeks, I was devastated that I was going to miss the whole Ireland thing. So I tried to push it as hard as I possibly could in the first two weeks to get myself fit again for it -- unfortunately it came just a week too early for me."
And with his goal came a patriotic celebration, as he indicated his blue and yellow wristband to the crowd. "It means a lot to me to show my appreciation for my home. It's a bit of a lucky charm for me," he said.
Hodgson described Long as one of West Brom's bargains, after signing him for less than £5m. "Players like Shane Long kill that myth which people have perpetuated over the years that if you play in the Championship that's the only place you can play," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)