Emerging as one of the club’s longest serving current players, following the signing of a two-year contract extension this week, Shane Long has been speaking about the role he holds as one of the more mature players in the Southampton dressing room.
Saints returned to full contact training this week, ahead of a proposed return to fixtures in mid-June, and Long, now 33, is hoping he can guide his side to Premier League safety, starting with a trip to Norwich City.
The Irishman is in his sixth season with Saints, and having now committed to another two, is relishing the chance to be a voice of experience within the squad.
“There comes a stage in your career where you know you are the one young players are going to come to, because you’ve been there a long time and played the game a long time,” he reflected.
“They’re hoping you’ve got some of the answers. When I was younger, playing for Ireland, it was Robbie Keane, Damien Duff, Richard Dunne, Shay Given – they were all leaders.
“When I came to Southampton it was Kelvin Davis and Jose Fonté, who aren’t much older than me, but are real heads of the game. They kept the dressing room in order.
“We’ve got a lot of leaders in our dressing room at the moment; people who are willing to stand up when things need to be said.
“It’s about finding the right balance but I hope I can be that mature voice in the dressing room as well.”
On Premier League resumption, he added: “Everyone is eager to get back into the season now because there’s a feeling that it’s going to be a positive finish for us.”