Long transfer chaos an unwanted distraction ahead of Swedish clash
AFTER enough 'To Hull and back' references to fill a bad jokebook, you can understand if Shane Long doesn't see the funny side for a while.
The Tipperary man was back in the sunshine at Malahide, out on the training pitch taking a full part in proceedings in a bid to forget a manic Monday that he will remember for the wrong reasons.
Long left the Ireland camp in a hurry to agree a £5m deal with Hull after West Brom made the surprising decision to sell him, only to change their minds later in the evening when other switches failed to materialise.
It left the Irish international in an awkward position, considering he was in the company of Hull boss Steve Bruce when the deal collapsed and it will be even stranger when he returns to the Hawthorns after this international break.
Certainly, it is an unwelcome distraction for a key player in the build-up to a crucial World Cup qualifier with Sweden, but the flip side is that he might be happier to spend the next few days in the company of his international pals.
They watched from their hotel rooms in the final hours of the transfer window, captivated by developments while stunned by the position in which Long found himself.
"It would have been madness for West Brom to let him go in the first place," said Jon Walters, articulating the general sentiment which is largely shared by Baggies fans.
The subplot is that contract talks at West Brom have stalled. Former Baggies front man Simon Cox added his two cents.
"He's got nearly 18 months left on his deal, so maybe they were looking for a quick fix," he suggested.
It's understood that Hull actually made an enquiry about Kevin Doyle earlier in the day before news of West Brom's plans to recruit strikers alerted them to Long's possible availability.
Both Irishmen are represented by former Cork City boss Pat Dolan.
Neither has ended this window in a better position than they started, with Doyle still in League One as clubs are put off by his £40,000-a-week wages, while Long's status at West Brom is bound to be a talking point leading into January.
However, there appears to be a general state of confusion over transfer policy at WBA, with Steve Clarke admitting last week that he is a head coach rather than a traditional manager and therefore depends on other people to sort out personnel matters.
Both Cox and Walters strongly alluded to the commonly-held feeling that Clarke did not wish for Long to leave.
"Maybe it's not what the manager wanted," said Walters, while Cox, who still has strong connections at the club, expanded in more detail.
"I know Steve Clarke really likes him and I don't think he would have wanted him to leave at all," added the Stoke City player.
"It's one of those – when clubs like you, they put bids in and it's up to the club whether they accept it or not. I don't think West Brom really wanted to sell him and I don't think Shane wanted to leave."
Marco Tardelli was a little surprised by developments, although he indicated that, perhaps, Long might want to prove a point to Clarke by taking a starring role against the Swedes.
"Shane is a good professional player and it is an opportunity to show his coach and the other coach that somebody is wrong, that is my opinion," he said.
Long (below) kept his counsel yesterday, understandably in the circumstances, and was deep in discussion with Richard Dunne as he boarded the team bus.
Cox is confident that a player who was also his team-mate at Reading will put the distraction behind him.
"I think he's focused enough now to concentrate on what we have to do here over the next few days rather than worrying about something that only came up in the first place on deadline day," he stressed.
"Not a lot of people knew (initially) that he had left, to be honest, because it all happened quite quickly. No one saw him on the telly, no one probably knew he was there.
"We obviously didn't realise until we heard what was going on – then you suddenly realise he is not around and wonder where he is. But he was gone and back quick enough."
On Friday, Ireland fans will be hoping that it's only the Swedish defence who are confused by the 26-year-old's whereabouts.