Thursday 15 March 2012
West Bromwich Albion assistant manager Keith Downing says striker Shane Long is showing signs of hitting the form that he displayed at the start of the campaign.
The 25-year-old scored five goals in 12 Barclays Premier League matches at the beginning of the season after joining from Reading last August.
But he has been hampered by injuries this season, with a spell out after hurting his knee against Aston Villa while he has also had problems with his back and chest.
"Certainly over the last 10 days there has been an indication he is coming back to his best"
- Keith Downing
However, Downing believes that Long is now ready to make a challenge for a place in the first-team.
"Shane, particularly over the last 10 days, has looked like he's coming back to his form at the start of the season," Downing told the club's official website.
"He has gone through a lot of niggling injuries and I think that's hampered him throughout this season.
"Certainly over the last 10 days there has been an indication he is coming back to his best.
"He is able to take contact more in training, he's making runs, and is looking a lot sharper around the box.
"I think he's one of those players who is ready and chomping at the bit."
Downing admits, though, that Long will need to work hard if he is to displace in-form Baggies striker Marc-Antoine Fortune from the first team.
"The break will probably do him some good and freshen him up for the final 10 games here"
- Keith Downing
"Marco has been exceptional and I think Shane, like [Paul] Scharner and [Graham] Dorrans, understand the team is doing well and they have to hold their hands up, work hard in the training sessions and try and get back in that way," added Downing.
Long, who has scored a total of six League goals this season, has not started a match since the defeat to Everton on New Year's Day.
But Downing believes the break is not necessarily a bad thing for the Republic of Ireland forward.
"If you look at Long's career record, he had a large amount of games with Reading in the Championship,” added Downing. "He is in his mid-20s now and he has probably had a lot of games prior to that as a young lad.
"That has probably had some repercussions this year with the fact he's had some niggling injuries. I think it catches up sometimes.
"The break will probably do him some good and freshen him up for the final 10 games here so he can make an impact as he did in the first few months."
West Brom, who have had only one defeat from their last four League matches, take on Wigan at the DW Stadium on Saturday.