Balls.ie caught up with the fastest Irishman alive earlier today ahead of the vital Euro 2012 qualifiers next week.
Nice goal yesterday, you must be pleased with how things have started on a personal level with West Brom?
Yeah, happy days, I'm enjoying my football at the moment it’s a massive club steeped in history with a top manager as well, so it’s a great club to be involved in. We have been playing good football this season even if the table doesn’t show that.
It’s a big difference from the championship and getting behind defences and working the channels. I am hopefully showing a different side to my game, it’s really good for me as an individual player to improve different aspects of my game and I’m really enjoying it at the minute.
A top ten finish is still there for us, we know we are good enough; we just need to turn performances into points. One or two wins will turn everything around there is a long way to go, a lot of points to play for.
To score on your debut against the champions wasn’t a bad start..
Yeah and it was to get it back to 1-1, It was a good performance from us we did well to go so far in the game and then lose it to a double deflection! It just sums up how it has gone for us. But from a personal level it was nice to score and against Chelsea after that. I managed one yesterday as well so three from seven isn’t a bad return but as a striker, obviously I want more.
It must have been a tough decision to leave Reading given how long you where there?
Yes, I was there for six years, I made a lot of good friends, I think when I left there I was the longest serving player so there’s is a lot of friendships there from the coaches even to the chairman I had to leave behind, it was tough to leave the club.
As a Tipp man, how do you sum up the All-Ireland final?
Devastated! If you ask anyone in Tipp they would say that! Especially losing to Kilkenny, but they were the better side, there is no disputing that. We still have a lot of good players though so there is still a lot of All Ireland’s in this team yet.
Watching the rugby team this morning and seeing what a major tournament can do for the country, you must be desperate to sample something like that?
Well I remember watching in Japan and Korea. The likes of Duffers and Keano there and how much it meant to the whole country and talking to the others and them saying how good it was, even talking to Adam Federici (Reading) about going to the Olympics with Australia. I have never had that so this is a huge chance for us to experience it.
Will you be keeping an eye on the Slovakia/Russia game and all the possible permutations?
Well I think the Slovakia game is a banana skin for Russia, they are going to have a point to prove after their last result, they beat them at home and it’s a bit of a derby as well but it’s all about us getting a result against Andorra and having something to play for on Tuesday night. Hopefully the crowd will get right behind us and get us through that one.
Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle have been the first choice pairing for a while now but that may have changed in the past few months. You were in for the Slovakia game before getting injured, is it hard looking in, waiting for your chance?
It is difficult in one way but in another way you look at the partnership they have, they are top quality strikers, it’s going to be hard to get ahead of them. I would have taken being first choice striker off the bench at the start of this campaign. I remember sitting in the stands out in Armenia and thinking I have got to try and get in the starting eleven. It’s obviously good for the team to have competition for places. The manager will pick who he thinks is best for the job and if that’s me then I’m ready to do the job.
Scoring goals in the Premiership as opposed to the Championship can only help that..
Yeah definitely, it helps. If you are scoring in the Premiership than you come into the squad fresh in the manager’s mind. Hopefully he has been impressed with how I’ve been playing. But at the same time Kevin has been playing week in and week out with Wolves, he is one of their top players, he has just signed a four year deal so he must be doing something right! Obviously it’s good competition for me, we are good friends, we push each other every step of the way, and there will be no friendship lost because of it.
There is a perception that for some games we should change our system, but the manager sticks with 4-4-2, do you think he deserves credit for that?
It’s obviously working. I know we haven’t been scoring but we have kept a lot of clean sheets. We work hard for each other and we know if we keep doing what we are doing we will start hitting the net. The Italian way of playing is very solid you know? Keeping clean sheets and winning games one and two nil. We have been doing that. Our record under Trapattoni has been exceptional for Ireland, so long may it continue.
Do you see similarities between him and Roy Hodgson?
Every time they talk about the game, you can see how passionate they are about it, It’s great to see, they have been in the game forty odd years but have lost none of that passion, When things are going right they are still not afraid to say their part and when things are going wrong they are there pushing you on as well, They are very similar, maybe not in the way their teams play but they way they are as managers.
Has Trapattoni said anything in specific to you about aspects of your game, have you learned a lot under him?
Yeah he has done a lot for me. Some simple things that make a big difference, they sound obvious but you didn’t do it before you know? He has really helped my game, like showing me angles to come off of defenders so they can’t follow me, things like that. It is technical but when he shows you on the pitch it is so simple. I’ve learned a lot because of that.
Mario Tardelli seems to be a big personality in the camp as well...
He is a big voice; he takes half the training most days and takes players aside and tells them what they need to be doing. He is a very nice man too, that goes for all the backroom staff. It’s a very good environment at the moment.
Obviously it’s all about results next week but for you, you will want to get some minutes on the pitch?
If I’m not starting then it’s all about coming off the bench and making and impact and making a contribution. I think that’s everyone’s attitude. Even if you are not involved, helping out in the dressing room and that. Everyone wants to get to the finals, that’s what it’s all about.
There was some criticism after the performance against Slovakia, at this stage is it all about getting the job done?
I’ll take two bad performances and two wins any day of the week. I think that is what the manager has brought, that stability at the back. If we go 1-0 up we don’t lose it generally. We now it’s going to be a tough game against Armenia but it starts with Andorra, if we get the win there it sets it up nicely.
I read last night about a charity auction for the shirt Richard Dunne wore against Russia. He summed up the attitude that night..
(Laughs) When you look back on the teams that beat England in the Euros and that that’s what you think of; bravery. Dunny was a man possessed that night, everyone in the team, you could see after the game, they were off their feet they gave it their all; they got the result and have set us up for this week. It could be a deciding factor in us getting to the finals.
Shane Long is an EA SPORTS ™, FIFA 12 Ambassador, FIFA 12 is out now in stores nationwide.