Long's injury a worry for Trap
SHANE LONG is in a race against time to be fit for the World Cup qualifying double-header with Sweden and Austria after Steve Clarke admitted he is a doubt for tomorrow's Premier League tie with Stoke.
The West Brom boss is still confident about the striker's Irish prospects, yet he admits that the player's ankle injury is taking longer to clear up than expected.
"He is doubtful for the weekend," said Clarke. "I spoke to the doctor and he said that if Shane has a good day, he might be able to do a spot of training which would put him in the frame for Stoke. He has been selected for the Irish squad and that is another week down the line, so it is possible he could be fit for them."
Long picked up the injury against Sunderland on February 23 and subsequently played through the pain barrier before missing last week's win over Swansea.
Giovanni Trapattoni has said that the Tipp native is a big part of his plans for the Sweden game, suggesting that his pace could pose problems for the Swedish rearguard.
Meanwhile, Irish U-21 midfielder Anthony Forde has joined Scunthorpe on loan for the rest of the season. The Wolves man has been starved of opportunities since the appointment of Dean Saunders as manager at Molineux.
Ireland have dropped to 40th place in the latest edition of the FIFA world rankings, although the only teams to have played a match since the last set of rankings are from Asia.
Spain remain top of the charts, with Germany second, Argentina third and England fourth. Next Friday's opponents Sweden are 21st, while Austria sit in 79th.