First of all, happy birthday Shane Long, you beautiful man.
Ireland's number nine will have seen his name pop up all over social media this January as he has been linked with a high profile move to Liverpool, but his manager Ronald Koeman has insisted that Long will not be leaving the club which means he can continue to focus on his football, starting with Manchester United and a trip to Old Trafford this weekend.
Speaking to Southampton FC's excellent YouTube channel before the match against Louis Van Gaal's men, Shane Long expressed how he feels this is the best run of games he has had as a Southampton player, and as a result is playing at his best. The club have recently signed Charlie Austin, who will directly compete with Long for a starting spot, but the Tipperary man has stated that he won't be giving up his place in the team easily, despite welcoming the competition for places:
I think at the moment [the spot in the starting lineup] is mine to lose, so it's a strong position for me to be in. It's always good when there's competition in the squad, I've always said that, it pushes every player to play to their best because there's someone waiting there to jump in and take your spot.
I've waited a long time to get this lead role in the team, and I'm not going to let it go easy.
Long has chipped in with five league goals this season, but as always it's more about what he offers the team as a whole rather than just his goalscoring, and Ronald Koeman has been happy with the Irishman's performances in recent weeks, but Long is well aware that Charlie Austin is a player who will push him for his place in the team.
However, Shane Long also believes that Austin is someone that he could work well with up front in a partnership, and praised the former QPR striker's finishing after his fine spell of form in the Premier League last year:
Yeah I think everyone could see last year when he was in the Prem, I think he scored 18 goals or something, you know he's very clinical when he gets his chances, and I think he's someone I could work alongside up front as well.
It's a different option for the manager, we're kind of different players, he's obviously a very good player as well so when the gaffer pulls me and says he wants to give Charlie a run I'll be supportive for him like he has been for me, and I'm looking forward to hopefully getting a chance to play with him up front and create a good partnership.
What a nice guy.
It will be interesting to see how Koeman utilises Austin, and whether we see himself and Long operating as a partnership or the two will battle for a starting place, but whatever happens, Shane is ready for the challenge.
Irish fans will obviously be hoping that Long's extended run in the team continues as we head towards Euro 2016, and a big performance at Old Trafford could help ensure that happens.
Watch the interview with Shane Long in full below: