Club News

Downing: Shane is massive to us

Joint-No.2 also praises hat-trick hero Anelka and gives Lugano update

KEITH Downing heaped praise on Shane Long after the forward played a prominent role in Albion’s 6-0 triumph over Cork City earlier tonight.

The Republic of Ireland international fired the Baggies’ fourth goal of the evening before helping strike-partner Nicolas Anelka seal his hat-trick.

The 26-year-old, who made one first-team appearance for the Leesiders before joining Reading in 2005, received a warm welcome from all four sides of the ground at Turner’s Cross.  

And Steve Clarke’s joint-assistant head coach believes Long will benefit from a boost of confidence after netting his first goal of pre-season. 

“We told him before the game we were looking for him to get on the scoresheet,” said Downing. 

“It’s a big boost for him although he has other strengths – his working along the lines and how much he contributes to the team. 

“But obviously, as a striker, you want to score goals.

“All good strikers have spells where they don’t score goals but what is important is what they contribute to the team. 

“And Shane always works hard for the team. 

“He always gives us that. 

“He puts himself under pressure to score goals but he helps us in other ways. 

“He’s made a big contribution since signing for us. 

“He’s massive to us.

“He’s a joy to play with in terms of his work-rate and we’re hopeful he gets his full quota of goals this year.”

Downing also spoke highly of Anelka – who scored his sixth goal in as many games – since joining the Baggies last month.

“He’s been great,” added Downing. 

“He’s settled in really, really well. 

“The other players like him a lot. 

“He brings a lot of qualities to the team.

“The more games he plays, their knowledge of how he works is growing. 

“What we really liked tonight is that three of the front four – Dorrans, Anelka and Long – got on the scoresheet. 

“We’re pleased about the contribution of those players.”

And Downing insists there are still places up for grabs in Clarke’s starting XI – with Albion’s Barclays Premier League opener with Southampton on Saturday, August 17 fast approaching.  

“Fitness-wise, the squad’s looking good. 

“We’re up to speed with one more game to go before the big kick-off.

“I still think there are places up for grabs.

“We’ll have another chance to look at one or two things against Bologna on Saturday. 

“The coaching staff have a general idea about what we plan to do.”

The Baggies joint-No.2 also gave an update on Diego Lugano – who signed a two-year contract at The Hawthorns on Friday.

“Diego’s a bit behind the other lads in terms of pre-season work. 

“He’s probably a week to ten days behind. 

“We’ve still got 11 days until the first game and he’ll be working with our fitness guys between now and then.”