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Sep 25, 2013

Long primed for West Brom return

West Bromwich Albion assistant head coach Kevin Keen insists Shane Long is fully committed to the Hawthorns cause and ready to pick up where he left off before his aborted move to Hull City.

Simon Mignolet has enjoyed a fine season for Sunderland, but his blunder gifted Shane Long a goal
Long will be hoping for an impressive return to the pitch.

The Republic of Ireland striker hasn't figured at first-team level since the collapse of his deadline day deal north but is in contention for a starting place against Arsenal in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday.

"Shane has come in and got on with his work," Keen said. "If anything, there has been a positive reaction in his training -- it has been a really high level. He's a top lad and is very much part of the thinking going forward. I think Steve (Clarke) has made it clear he's a massive part of this club.

"I don't think there will be any problem with him. He's raring to go to be honest to show people he really wants to score some goals. We're delighted he's still here and still part of West Bromwich Albion. I'm sure he will score goals this season and play a massive part in us progressing."

Despite the summer return of Romelu Lukaku to Chelsea and then Albion's narrow failure to re-sign him on loan, competition for attacking places at The Hawthorns has increased hugely with the arrival of Nicolas Anelka, Victor Anichebe, Stephane Sessegnon and the currently sidelined Matej Vydra.

That leaves Long with a battle to regain and nail down a place, especially as Saido Berahino emerged as another candidate with a sensational Capital One Cup hat-trick against Newport in the last round and Scott Sinclair can also play up front.

"It has been four weeks now since Scott came and, as the weeks have gone on, we can see him getting fitter and stronger," Keen added. "On Saturday, he played a massive role in the first goal and produced little glimpses of what I think we're going to get more of this season.

"I think over the coming weeks and months he's going to get better and stronger and I think he'll really get West Brom supporters off their seats at home. Away, he'll be a threat on the counter attack. He has got a massive role to play for us.

"Keeping everyone involved is a better problem to have than the other way around. I think Steve's happy with the problem he's got in terms of 'which ones do I pick?' In training, some of the forward play we've seen over the last week or so has been really top drawer. I'm really positive that over the coming season at The Hawthorns, we're going to see goals and some really good football."

Albion's weekend win bought them valuable breathing space before a League sequence that takes them to Manchester United on Saturday and then into follow-up games against Arsenal and at Stoke and Liverpool. But Keen played down suggestions that the team for Old Trafford would be picked before Wednesday's.

"Our main focus is on beating Arsenal, which is a big enough thing to think about and organise," he said. "Our thoughts have just been on Arsenal, which is a big ask. But we’re playing at home in front of our fans and I think it’s a fantastic game; we've got a big chance."

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