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Hull City's Shane Long (left). Photo: Anna Gowthorpe/ PA Wire

Hull City's Shane Long (left). Photo: Anna Gowthorpe/ PA Wire

Hull City's Shane Long (left). Photo: Anna Gowthorpe/ PA Wire

EVEN THOUGH he refused to celebrate his goal against his former club, Ireland striker Shane Long still found himself under the spotlight following Hull City's kicking of West Brom on Saturday.

But Hull boss Steve Bruce has mounted a staunch defence of his striker, insisting that the Tipperary man is not a diver.

A penalty, an alleged dive, a goal scored and an injury were the on-field events involving a busy Long, but he found his family dragged into the aftermath of Hull's 2-0 defeat of West Brom with his wife Kayleigh going on Twitter to attack the WBA fans who handed out "vile" abuse to their former player, in front of Long's family, as he was leaving the ground.

Regret

Baggies fans regret the day in January when the club's hierarchy decided to sell the striker to Hull, and Long has since then delivered three goals in eight games for City, while West Brom are four places below the Tigers in the Premier League.

The spotlight fell on Long on Saturday when he went down under a challenge and, although he picked himself up and didn't seek a penalty, one was given by referee Chris Foy.

Hull converted to take the lead and Long later added a second goal, but Bruce insisted the Tipperary man did not seek the penalty.

"Shane is never going to dive – he's as genuine as they come. But when you move as quickly as he does, you are going to go over with the slightest little tap. It might be a soft penalty, but Chris Foy is close and maybe he's seen and heard some contact," said Bruce, his view backed up by Long himself: "I got clipped, no, I didn't dive. Yeah, it was a soft and that's why I didn't claim for it," he said on Twitter.

Baggies boss Pepe Mel also absolved Long for any blame in the incident. "Shane Long is a good professional and he is a striker for Hull City," said Mel, a man under pressure as the Baggies have managed just one win in the last 11 games.

"For us, it is about playing with attention and hard work and it is the same for us whether it is against Shane Long or any other players. Shane only wants the best for his team and I think it is normal."

Bruce had to work hard to land Long from their Premier League rivals and he is delighted with the impact made by the Irishman and fellow forward Nikica Jelavic.

"The two strikers came in at just the right time and have given the whole club a boost. We didn't play well on Saturday by any stretch of the imagination, but if you have got that bit of quality at the top end of the pitch they can create something and they will always be a handful with the attitude they've got," Bruce said.

Meanwhile, Long's international teammate James McClean says he accepts that squad rotation is just a part of life with promotion-chasing Wigan.

The Latics are on fire in their chase for promotion, with nine wins and a draw in the last 10 games, but McClean has been forced to spend some time on the bench as boss Uwe Rosler tinkers with his side, making sure that Wigan remain a force in their double bid for promotion and an FA Cup success.

"The games are coming thick and fast, and the gaffer has been making full use of his squad," says McClean, who was left on the bench for the midweek draw with Yeovil but was then restored to the starting XI for Saturday's win over Watford.

"The team has been different every single game, and it's had to be that way because of the amount of games.

"We all understand where the gaffer is coming from, but as a player you just want to be playing every single week. To be fair, the results recently have vindicated the gaffer's approach," added McClean, who has already made 40 appearances for Wigan this season.


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