News and Views

A Royal Return Had Long Been Rumoured

15 July 2022
By Hob Nob Anyone?

It has been another couple of busy days for fans of Reading as preparations continue for the coming 2022/23 Championship season, and hot on the heels of the announcement of the loan arrival of Republic of Ireland international and Newcastle United midfielder Jeff Hendrick, Wednesday evening saw the long awaited (and much speculated) return of fellow Eire star Shane Long.

The now 35-year-old striker left the Madejski Stadium eleven years ago in a £6.5 million deal with West Bromwich Albion, and since then he's moved on to Hull City and Southampton paid a whopping £12 million for him in August 2014. After almost a decade on the south coast, Long spent the second half of last season out on loan with Bournemouth and he returns to us this week as a free agent.

His energy and work ethic has never been in doubt, but he has not replicated his goalscoring exploits with us (120 starts seeing a return of 54 goals) in any of his spells at other clubs as he returns to us all these years later with a now career total of 119 to his name. His former slot games in front of a net should not be expected on his return.

The gamble 17 years ago with Long and Kevin Doyle's joint captures was not too shabby a piece of business by the club and it is expected that he will join up with his new teammates for the first time today as he arrives at Bearwood Park for the first time since signing the 12 month contract that gives him a second spell with us.

The club are clearly pretty pleased with this piece of business and Mark Bowen, Head of Football Operations said at his unveiling.

"When he first arrived at this club, very few fans will have known anything about Shane Long. But now, he needs absolutely no introduction to Royals supporters. A return to the club where it all began for Shane has been rumoured for a number of years, so I am delighted to have made that rumour a reality."

Manager Paul Ince took a different approach and insisted that whilst there was the obvious fairytale aspect for the fans, Long had been brought in based on what he could still bring to the club on the football pitch.

"The arrival of Shane is something of a football fairytale for Reading fans. But make no mistake about it – he is coming into the dressing room purely on the merits of what he can offer this squad out on the pitch. Experience, energy, leadership, desire and a natural instinct you need to score goals. Shane will be an important addition to the group we are patiently trying to build and grow."

Long's overall history at the club needs no explaining and although he never quite replicated his goalscoring touch with us at other clubs, he also returns now boasting the fastest every goal scored in Premier League history - in a meeting between Southampton and Watford at Vicarage Road back in 2019, the Irishman found the net after only 7.69 seconds.

Few will expect him to replicate that in his second spell with us, but plenty will be backing him to have a positive impact.

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