Is Shane Long starting to find his feet at the Hawthorns?

Following Reading’s Championship play-off final defeat at the hands of Swansea last season, the former’s chairman, John Madejski, placed a £20m valuation on the head of their then-striker Shane Long. Just two months later and West Bromwich Albion snapped-up the Gortnahoe-born goalscorer for an initial £4.5m fee – just under a quarter of Madejski’s estimation – and on the evidence of Long’s fledgling Premier League career, many commentators consider the Baggies’ business to be very astute.

West Brom’s new asset scored 48 goals in 174 games for his former Berkshire club, an impressive ratio which prompted him to be linked to a host of top flight clubs over the summer just gone. Demonstrating how quickly Long has adapted to life in the top echelon is illustrated by the opposition for his first two goals; last season’s champions and runners-up, Manchester United and Chelsea respectively. However, it was his performance against Wolves at the Hawthorns, which his manager Roy Hodgson described as: “as near fault-free as you will get,” that really impressed.

Hodgson was maligned for most of his transfer activity whilst at Liverpool, but he is quickly banishing those demons of that wretched tenure by watching Long become one of the signings of the season so far. In his first three months in charge of the last campaign, the ex-Anfield manager steered West Brom to an 11th placed finish, their highest in just under thirty years. Hodgson envisaged when signing Long he would be a perfect foil for new local-hero Peter Odemwingie, although the two have since experienced teething problems. Many footballing marriages take time to burgeon but you can rest assure that Hodgson will attempt to use all of his nous – acquired from 40 years of football management – to aid their partnership.

Long demonstrated a genuine willingness and strength to run the line against Mick McCarthy’s men, acting as a vital and assured outlet for the Baggies. Furthermore, and although he was not directly involved in either of his team’s goals, the way he exemplified his manager’s required team work ethic should not be underestimated. Hodgson ditched his experimental 4-5-1 formation for a more rigid, and ultimately more comfortable 4-4-2, and it rewarded them only their second victory of the season. Performances such as these for the club’s probable record signing – the initial £4.5m could rise to £6.5m with add-ons to eclipse the £4.7 outlay for Borja Valero – will only aid the “world class” player tag Madejski had also labelled him with.

Striker’s rates of success are logically graded on their goals to game ratio, but showing the enthusiasm and inclination to graft as Long did against Wolves not only encourages his manager but also those around him. The Republic of Ireland international is still only 24-years-old, but if he keeps maturing at his current rate he should continue to successfully adapt and embrace his next chapter, one that may well prove prolific.

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