READING striker Shane Long wants to repay manager Brian McDermott’s faith by shooting his team into the Barclays Premier League in today’s npower Championship final against Swansea.
The Royals head into the match as the division’s form team and fresh from an impressive 3-0 aggregate semi-final triumph over Cardiff.
Long netted twice in the victory over the Bluebirds to increase his goal haul for the season to 25, which has unsurprisingly seen him become one of the hottest properties outside the top flight.
Liverpool and Everton have been mooted as potential destinations for the Republic of Ireland international, although Long is only focused on further justifying McDermott’s belief in him today.
“At the start of the season I was playing well but just couldn’t score,” he said. “Any other manager would have dropped me. But even though some of the fans were shouting for my head, the gaffer has stuck by me.
“Probably the only way to repay that is to help get Reading back into the Premier League. I’ve played 50 games and scored more than 25 goals so far this season. To get the winner at Wembley would probably do it.”
Long joined the Royals from Cork City in 2005 and at first lodged with McDermott, cutting the grass to help pay his way. Not only did the Reading boss help Long with a place to live, but he helped him rediscover his confidence when he took the manager’s hotseat.
Long fell out of favour under previous boss Brendan Rodgers and it had looked at one point as if the striker may leave the Madejski Stadium.
Rodgers is now manager of today’s opponents Swansea and Long is keen to prove his worth.
“I was out of favour under Brendan,” he said. “He preferred other strikers to me. I don’t know why he didn’t like me, so it would be nice to show him there’s a bit more about me than he thought.
“When it came to matchdays, it just didn’t click or work out. Then Brian came in and saw something in me Brendan didn’t. He has given me a chance and I’d like to think I can repay him.”
While Long is quick to praise McDermott, the Reading manager is equally complimentary of the Royals’ number nine. “He lived with me for six or eight weeks,” he said. “We saw him play in Ireland and he came over about the same time as Kevin Doyle.
“He was 18 and spent eight weeks living in my house. He was a great lad — he cut the lawn now and again too. He’s just a top lad.
“His and Kevin Doyle’s goals have been worth millions.”
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