Downing boosted by striker's return
West Bromwich Albion,
West Brom assistant boss Keith Downing believes Shane Long is getting closer to full match sharpness after a season of frustration.
Long made an impressive start to the campaign after joining the Baggies from Reading in August for a fee in the region of £4.5m, but he then suffered a knee injury in a challenge by Aston Villa full-back Alan Hutton which led to a lengthy spell on the sidelines. No sooner had he put that problem behind him and another setback gave him cause for concern as he was diagnosed pericarditis, an inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart, following a back complaint. However, the Republic of Ireland international showed signs during the 1-0 win at Liverpool at the weekend that he has regained his form and Downing is now hoping the striker can enjoy a trouble free run-in ahead of what could be a big summer for him. He told reporters: "Shane has been blighted by different things since that Alan Hutton tackle and had a stop-start season. "But we are now seeing signs that he's coming back to full fitness and he was a constant menace against Liverpool. "It's important for him to finish the season strongly with Euro 2012 coming up with the Republic of Ireland."