STEVE Clarke has praised Shane Long for not letting speculation surrounding his future affect his performances on the pitch.
The Baggies hitman fired his second goal in a week for club and country as he scored the third in the Republic of Ireland’s 3-0 friendly win over Latvia on Friday.
Clarke insists Long’s overall display in the 2-2 draw at Chelsea – in which he opened his account for the season - hit all the right notes.
And, having scored the opener in a 1-1 draw at Villa Park last term, Long will be itching to face Paul Lambert’s men in Monday’s Hawthorns derby (ko 8pm).
“There’s been a lot of focus on Shane’s contract situation in the media but I look at Shane's performance against Chelsea and I don't think it's upsetting him too much,” said the Albion boss.
“His performance levels are good.
“He needs to concentrate on keeping those performance levels and the future will take care of itself.”
He added: “I've said all along that Shane will play a big part for us this season.
“That one game against Chelsea doesn't make it a big part, but it's a start.
“It shows what he can do for us.
“He had an interrupted start to this season and again he's just been away for an international break.
“But at least he got a chance to come off the bench and score another goal, and started on Tuesday.
“He's got back to back goals and hopefully he can get another goal when he next plays.”