MARK HUGHES HAS insisted that Shane Long is still in his long-term plans at Southampton despite the striker scoring just two goals in 30 Premier League appearances last season.
The Ireland international endured a frustrating campaign last year, finding the back of the net less than a handful of times in over 1,500 minutes of play.
Long — alongside Northern Ireland captain Steven Davies — was left out of the Saints’ 18-man match-day squad for last Saturday’s 0-0 draw at home to Burnley. However boss Hughes has maintained that the 31-year-old still has a major part to play going forward.
“I’ve explained to the guys that didn’t play that it’s not a reflection on me thinking I don’t need them or they’re not in my plans because that’s not the case,” the manager said.
“I think players, unfortunately – and it happened in my day – when they are not in the first eleven for the first game of the season all of a sudden they get a little bit anxious and think maybe my future lies elsewhere and agents are telling them they’ve got to move.
“And that’s not the case with Shane and the likes of Steven Davis.”
Southampton finished three points above the relegation zone in 17th place last season, scoring just 37 goals.
Hughes bolstered his squad during the summer transfer window, bringing in Liverpool striker Danny Ings on loan in a deal worth €22 million to join Long, Charlie Austin, Sam Gallagher and Manolo Gabbiadini in attack.
Long has scored just five goals in his last 62 Premier League appearances, however Hughes maintains that the Tipperary native, alongside Davies, are part of his plans at the club.
“They’re very much part of what we’re going to do this year,” Hughes said. “And I just said to them: ‘At the end of the year, you’ll look back on the season and you’ll find that you’ve played many, many games — so bear with me.’”
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