Stepping Up: Shane Long defends from the front for West Bromwich Albion

West Bromwich Albion have long had a reputation for playing attractive, passing football, writes Adam Bate from Ghost Goal.

It’s a tradition the club is proud of and in recent times managers such as Tony Mowbray and Roberto di Matteo have enjoyed success playing an expansive game. But this wasn’t the reason Roy Hodgson committed to paying as much as £6.5million for Shane Long in the summer – Long was bought to give West Brom a new dimension.

The former Reading man has certainly made an impressive impact. Goals against Manchester United and Chelsea never do a player much harm but coming as they did in the player’s first two matches for the club it meant Long was already well on the way to hero status. And yet, his contribution to the side is about far more than goals. Long provides an outlet for his team-mates by defending from the front and turning hopeful punts into possession high up the pitch.

His defensive contribution is highlighted by the Opta statistics that show Long made more tackles than any other player on the pitch against Chelsea. He achieved this feat once again in the Black Country derby against Wolves and in the trip to Sunderland only former England international defender Wes Brown won more tackles than Long.

Where there remains room for improvement is in Long’s link-up play. Michael Cox pointed out in his Premier League chalkboard analysis in the Guardian that (excluding the kick-off) Long completed only one pass to his strike-partner Peter Odemwingie against Sunderland. And it’s not just Odemwingie that Long has struggled to link up with. He has completed more than 20 successful passes in a match only once all season.

This chalkboard from the 2-1 defeat to Chelsea illustrates the point that Long’s role for West Brom is more about his contribution without the ball than with it:

Guardian Chalkboard

Perhaps this says as much about the quality of service Long is receiving from his West Brom team-mates as it does about the man’s ability with the ball at his feet. But then, as Reading fans will be aware, Long is comfortable in an underdog role scrapping for the ball.

At the age of 24, there is time for Shane Long’s game to develop. But for now, Roy Hodgson will be delighted with the contribution of his club’s record signing.

The Seventy Two
The Seventy Two published an outstanding series of articles about the Football League between 2010-12 and was the brainchild of Leicester City fan, David Bevan. As well as collaborating with The Two Unfortunates on the Football League Blog Network and a mammoth 2011-12 season preview, the site featured a host of leading bloggers and David was rewarded with a nomination in the 2011 Football Supporters’ Federation awards. Latterly, he was joined as co-editor by Joe Harrison and TTU is happy to present this archive of the site’s output.


  1. Peter
    November 10, 2011

    Very interesting article. But..

    “as much as £6.5million for Shane Long” – It was nearer 4,5

    “with the contribution of his club’s record signing.” – He isn’t. That was Valero.

    • theseventytwo
      November 10, 2011

      Undisclosed fees are always a riddle but the Telegraph reported it as £4.5m rising to a possible £6.5m.

      • Peter
        November 11, 2011

        It was also a direct quote from Roy Hodgson after the Chelsea game. But i take your point. Anyway, it doesn’t detract from an interesting article. I enjoyed reading it.

  2. John
    November 10, 2011

    I thought this was a Football League blog. Apart from two throwaway references to Reading, this is most definitely a post about the Premiership.

    • theseventytwo
      November 10, 2011

      This mini-series was my idea to see how Championship players have made the step up to the Premier League this summer.


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