Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Long aiming for the Premier league

Ireland striker Shane Long is refusing to rule out a move to the Premier League - but he insists his burning ambition is to get there with Reading.

Long was again instrumental in Reading's 2-1 win over Preston this evening, providing the pass for Jimmy Kebe to put the Royals in front and being a constant menace in front of goal.

Tonight's win moves the Royals into sixth place in the Championship and they are now right in the play-off mix and looking to continue a strong charge towards Premiership promotion.

The 24-year-old Tipperary born striker scored both goals in last Saturday's 2-0 home win against Portsmouth to take his club tally to 22 for the season.

And with three further Ireland international goals to his name this campaign, Long continues to be linked with a string of top-flight clubs including Wolves and West Brom.

But the in-form Irish hitman says the prospect of leaving the Madejski Stadium has not even crossed his mind.

Long, who signed a new contract recently until summer 2012, declared: "I think I'm performing well in the Championship and obviously the next step is the Premier League. I want to test myself against the best players in the world.

"But that's a long way away and all I'm looking for now is the next three points for Reading."

However, Long was more cautious when asked whether he may be forced to move on for the sake of his career should Reading fail to secure promotion.

"That's a hard question to answer," admitted the former Cork City player. "Obviously I want to play at the highest level but all I want to do is concentrate on the next game for Reading and take things as they come. I'm enjoying my football here, I get on well with the lads and my sole ambition is to get the Premier League with Reading."

The victory over Preston has stretched Reading's unbeaten run to nine matches and Long believes that if that continues they could even snatch the second automatic promotion spot behind champions-elect QPR.

"I'm enjoying my football at the moment and the games and the goals are coming thick and fast so long may that continue," he said. "We're going the right way about things and all of a sudden second place doesn't look far away.

"We've set our expectations high and aim for that second position so wherever we finish will be a bonus."

Long's brace last Saturday meant he is the first Reading player to score 20 league goals or more in a season since former strike partners Jamie Cureton and Martin Butler both managed it 10 years ago.

And despite the growing interest around Long's future, McDermott appears unconcerned: "I am not thinking about losing Long or any other players next season," he argued. "All we can do is train and worry about our next game.

"I think Shane has been on fire since the start of the season. He was playing well but not scoring whereas now he is getting the goals as well".