Ireland striker Shane Long isn’t quite ready to hang up his boots anytime soon, with the 32-year-old’s return to the Southampton squad coinciding with their recent upturn in form.
Long had failed to feature in four games in a row between the middle of October and the start of November, but after coming on as a sub and impressing against Arsenal and Watford, the striker has found himself starting the last two for the Saints.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side have won two and drawn one of the four games Long has featured in of late, with the Tipperary native’s pace and relentless work rate proving highly effective alongside the prolific Danny Ings.
Injury issues had hampered the beginning of Long’s season, but speaking to The Daily Echo, the Irish striker outlined that he feels fitter and faster than ever and that he can’t see his Premier League career coming to an end any time soon.
“You’ve got to keep yourself fit for when that chance does come your way because it comes at strange times, when you least expect it.”
“When there are lads in the dressing room who were born in the year 2000 – I think what?! But my body feels good.
“When you get the stats after a game it’s always nice to see what you’ve done and I hit the fastest speed I’ve ever recorded against Newcastle. Apparently it was 10.4 metres per second.
“So I’ve still got my pace and that’s one of my main attributes.
“The game’s gone more professional over here over the years, there’s a lot more work on players getting faster with work in the gym to make their muscles stronger. I like to think I’m benefitting from that.
“I do a lot of high-metre running and pressing and running in behind defences, so I’m making sure I keep doing a lot of long sprints to prolong my career.
“People ask how long I think I’ve got left and I can’t see it ending at the moment.
“I don’t feel I’m at that stage yet, I feel strong and ready to go. Long may it continue.”
Long has always been an incredible athlete, with his aerial ability one of the biggest strengths in his game as he proved with a brilliant flick on for Ryan Bertrand’s goal in their crucial win over Norwich City.
“As a kid I did every sport you can think of and athletics was a big part of that,” he explained.
“Maybe that’s where the leap comes from as well, I did the high jump and the long jump and got an U14 record in Ireland in the hurdles so I did a lot of speed work as a kid.”
Long will also be hoping that his return to fitness and steady form can see him work his way back into contention for Mick McCarthy’s Irish side ahead of their Euro playoff in March.
The Saints striker has failed to make any of McCarthy’s final squads since his arrival with Long’s last cap coming in the Nations League defeat to Wales in October of 2018.