Last season, Shane Long scored 21 league goals for Reading, three goals in domestic cup competitions and a further two on the international stage, taking his overall tally to 26. It should not come as any great surprise then that he has already been the subject of repeated overtures from Liverpool, Everton and Celtic, with the former apparently willing to offer as much as £15 million for the signature of the talented Irishman. While many would see this as a wildly exorbitant price to pay for a player as yet essentially unproven in the Premier League, there is no doubt that Long is stuffed full of potential which would flourish in the right environment.
A deceptively strong and pacey leader of the line, Long is the main fulcrum of Reading’s attacking thrusts, and regularly linked up well with Noel Hunt, Jimmy Kebe and Jobi McAnuff to help fire the Royals to the Championship Playoff Final. From being a buzzing nuisance around the penalty area when the opposition are in possession to scoring a long-range thunderbolt V champions QPR, Long would appear to have all the qualities and determination necessary to succeed in the Championship.
Which is all well and good, but could he take this form a to a whole new level, moving up the requisite number of gears to prosper and score goals in the Premier League-the acknowledged hardest and least forgiving domestic competition in the world? I think not, and I think deep down Long knows this as well. While in the short-term a move to the star-studded grounds of Anfield or Celtic Park might appeal to a young lad from Northern Ireland, in the long-term I think that he isn’t ready (he is still only a relative novice of 24), and won’t be until he has spent at least another year in the school of hard knocks that is the Championship.
If he was to go to any Premiership club that could afford glamorous & expensive overseas imports, he would quickly find himself marginalised and confined to a handful of sub appearances in the league, and Carling Cup bore-fests at lower league clubs. Liverpool and Everton are both clubs who can afford proven and expensive imports, and there is no doubt that the Republic of Ireland international would suffer greatly from lack of playing time if he was to wind up there.
Therefore, it would in my opinion be a serious and possibly fatal mistake if this promising, extremely talented individual was to leave Reading and head to Merseyside or Glasgow. He is too hot and exciting a prospect to spend the next few years warming a bench, when he could be entertaining and wowing crowds all over the Championship.
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