Shane Long looks to be in for an extended contract at West Bromwich Albion after opening talks with the club.
The Ireland striker, who has frequently been linked with moves to bigger clubs, has just over a year left on his current deal as well as a 12-month option. But moves to keep him long-term at the Hawthorns are now in train.
Albion manager Steve Clarke said: “So far as I know Shane’s advisors have spoken to Richard Garlick [Albion’s new sporting and technical director] about possibly a new contract.
“It is great to hear that Shane is happy at Albion. It is good for us. Shane has been great all season right from the first game against Liverpool when he was outstanding.”
Long returns to training today after limping off with an ankle injury against Sunderland last weekend, and his club are optimistic he will be fit to face Chelsea tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Long has been speaking up in favour of his good friend Kevin Doyle, suggesting that Wolves need to send for the striker if the Championship strugglers are to escape the relegation zone.
Wolves, who have failed to win in eight games under new manager Dean Saunders, face another testing challenge tonight in the shape of high-flying Watford. And Long believes they can’t afford to start without his former Reading and Cork City team mate and fellow Irish international Doyle, who has begun the last three games for the club on the bench.
“He’s a brilliant footballer,” said Long. “I have seen him train every day. I think he deserves his chance at Wolves because he’s done a lot for them in the past when they were struggling over there.
“There is not a better player you could call on. He’s done it for Ireland and Wolves. If he can get back in the starting 11, they will appreciate how much they have missed him.”
A chance for Doyle to impress would also be a boost for the player’s international hopes, with just a week to go before Giovanni Trapattoni unveils his squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Sweden and Austria.
Tonight’s match could also be significant for Stephen Hunt as he looks to put protracted injury misery behind him. Having recently recovered from hip surgery, the winger’s hopes of returning to action for Wolves suffered a setback in the form of a stubborn chest infection. But Dean Saunders reckons the 31-year-old is on the verge of a recall.
“He might be in with a chance of starting against Watford,” the manager said. “Every time he’s trained, his lungs have caused him a problem and he’s reacted – but he’s got through two days now.”
In what must count as especially welcome news concerning another Irish international, midfielder Keith Fahey is now close to making a full comeback for Birmingham City.
Fahey, who had been on extended compassionate leave at home in Dublin, has been back in training for two weeks and Blues manager Lee Clark has now confirmed that he will make a low-key return to action in next Monday’s development squad match against Crewe.
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