Long 'carries' the Baggies
Soccer:West Brom manager Steve Clarke has paid tribute to Shane Long after the Irishman helped propel the Baggies into fourth yesterday with a goal and an assist against European champions Chelsea. The striker opened the scoring and then crossed for Nigerian Peter Odemwingie to head the winner in a sixth Baggies home win in seven.
The Tipperary man has been protecting a hamstring problem this season and he delivered his inspired performance yesterday despite the death of his grandmother 24 hours earlier. He paid tribute to her when revealing a ‘Rest In Peace Nan’ T-shirt after scoring his backpost header in the first half and folowing the game he returned to Ireland.
“I haven’t got anymore words to speak about Shane,” Clarke said of the Republic of Ireland striker. “I speak about him almost every week and his performances are top class. He produced another fantastic performance in what has been a difficult week for him. He carries the team. He gives us that spirit and determination upfront and carries everyone else forward.
“He is a little bit sad. He has gone back to Ireland now for the funeral and will be away for two or three days. But it was a great way for him to pay his respects to his grandmother. He wanted to play.”
Clarke believes West Brom are currently “in the right position to think about Europe” but refuses to get carried away with the Baggies best ever start to a Premier League campaign.
“At the moment, we are in the right position to think about Europe - but we go from game to game. That is boring I know, but I think this weekend we’ll let the supporters dream a little bit.
“The team are certainly in a very good moment, but within the camp we’ll keep our feet on the ground. I think people have been taking notice of us for quite a few weeks now. We are aware of that, they can take notice if they want, but we work from game to game.”
Clarke has managed to make West Brom into more of an attacking threat since he succeeded the pragmatic Roy Hodgson who had made Albion hard to beat. His philosophy was written all over the Baggies performance yesterday as they refused to settle for a draw after Eden Hazard equalised for Chelsea and moved to within a point of the visitors.
He said: “I wanted to try and make supporters go home happy at the weekend after watching a team who have played attractive football and tried to play football the right way and get positive results. We’ll go chasing three points and, if we keep doing what we are doing, it can be a good season for us.
“We closed the gap on Chelsea and managed to put a few more points between some teams that are below us.”