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Long revels in pressure

READING FC got one of the bargains of the decade when they paid Cork City around £20,000 for Shane Long in 2005.

Things are a little different for the Tipperary man now that he has a weighty price tag of £7million on his back as he has to justify himself and his transfer valuation almost on a weekly basis. Yet, Long believes that he's coping well with the pressure of being big-time with West Brom, especially as he's just taken his tally of goals for the season to three from seven games, thanks to his contribution in Saturday's 2-2 draw with Sunderland.

"There is pressure on me because of the fee that West Brom paid for me but it's good pressure from my point of view, it's pressure that makes me go out there and prove my worth. I know I have to give it my all week in, week out. I have to train well and make sure I am ready for the game on Saturday," Long admitted to the Herald as he reported to Dublin for international duty.

"There is extra pressure on wearing the No9 shirt at West Brom, a lot of great players have worn that shirt over the years, Cyrille Regis and people like that. A lot of big names had that jersey before me so that's good pressure for me as well, I hope it will push me on and develop me as a player.

"The form is good and it was nice to score a goal at the weekend. When we were 2-0 up after five minutes, it was never going to be easy to hold on to that lead for 85 minutes, but it was still disappointing to concede two goals in the manner we did and to see the game turned on its head.


"We could easily have folded completely and lost the game, so it was an up and down day on Saturday, but a point away from home against Sunderland is not the worst result in the world," added Long, who has now joined Leon Best as the top Irish scorer in the Premier League this season.

"That's three goals in seven games now so it's pleasing to see the goals go in, especially with the teams I scored against -- Man U and Chelsea. But there have been a lot of tough games in that run as well, games where I didn't get many chances and there were sleepless nights, stuff like that," Long admitted.

"It affects you when you don't score. At the start of last season with Reading, I scored only one goal in the first 13 games and I was under real pressure. When that stat comes out it knocks you off your feet and you wonder, 'Am I ever going to score again?' It does get on top of you, but you just need to get one goal to get the monkey off your back, and all of a sudden you've scored three in three games and you're the man in form again.

"Every striker goes through those spells where you seem to do everything right but you can't hit the back of the net, so you just need one to get going.

"That's why I am on form now with three goals in seven games, that can change quickly so I have to do all I can to keep sharp," he added. "It's not the fact that I don't score, I can deal with that. When you're getting chances and not scoring, the main thing you look at is your performance and the fact that the chances are coming, if not the goals.

"But when you don't get any chances is when I start to worry, I look back on games and see what I did wrong or if there's anything more I can do.

"Maybe I am a bit of a perfectionist and I possibly have to stop beating myself up about not getting chances.

"It was nice scoring against Man U and Chelsea, especially scoring at Stamford Bridge. I know it's a cliche but that's the stuff that dreams are made of.

"You think back to when you were a kid, you'd watch Chelsea play on telly and then go outside and kick the ball off the wall and imagine yourself being there some day.

"It is a bit surreal for me to be there, scoring at Stamford Bridge. But I can't dwell on that, the Premiership is unforgiving."

For the next 10 days, Long will put aside his club considerations and focus on helping Ireland in the Euro 2012 qualifiers against Andorra and Armenia. Long is back in the fold after missing the last two qualifiers.

"I hope to get into the team for Friday, train well all week and put a problem into the manager's head. Whatever happens I will be ready to do my bit, if that's from a starting role or coming off the bench to make an impact, coming into the game to score a vital goal, then I'll do that," he added.