Long raring to go again
West Bromwich Albion striker Shane Long is relishing the prospect of making his return against Everton on Wednesday after having to sit out the two matches he had anticipated most eagerly this season.
Long, 26, has not figured since scoring his eighth goal of the season in the FA Cup third round draw at Queens Park Rangers on January 5, but is confident of being back for next week's Premier League clash.
And that comeback should ease his disappointment at missing the trip to his former club Reading, as well as the home derby against Aston Villa.
"Reading away would have been great as I haven't been there as a player since I moved here but I listened to it on the radio and heard both sets of supporters chanting my name," he said.
"Playing Villa either at The Hawthorns or Villa Park is an amazing experience, so, to be at the ground but unable to play, was difficult. The atmosphere was really something.
"But it's nice to be back. It has dragged on longer than I thought it would but I think the break this weekend has helped me out a bit. It gives me a bit more time to get ready for Everton."
West Brom, who are without a game this weekend because of their third-round replay defeat against QPR, will be relieved to have Long back in training over the last couple of days.
The club have not won since Boxing Day, although the Ireland international has seen himself overtaken in the club's top-scorer list by Romelu Lukaku.
Long suffered a bad dead leg in training following the tie at Loftus Road, his absence having coincided with continued speculation over the future of his team-mate Peter Odemwingie.
Although Hawthorns chiefs are at pains to say they expect no first-teamers to leave against their wishes this month, some reports suggest QPR boss Harry Redknapp is considering increasing his failed £2 million bid to around £3 million. There are also suggestions that the Nigeria international could be contemplating handing in a transfer request.
One deal West Brom have seen through is defender Craig Dawson's switch to Bolton on loan.
The England Under-21 international is moving to the Reebok Stadium for 93 days, although he can be recalled after 28.
"We firmly believe Craig has a bright future and this spell will hopefully enable him to play some games and continue his football education," said the club's new sporting and technical director Richard Garlick. "We've had an awful lot of interest in Craig but been reluctant to allow to him to go out due to our injury situation."