Roy Hodgson was on Shane Long's trail long before he signed the Republic of Ireland striker in August, his interest having begun while still in charge at Fulham. Yet, after the 24-year-old capped a startlingly rapid return from potentially serious injury with the winning goal on Saturday, Hodgson credited Albion's technical director, Dan Ashworth, with being the man behind one of the season's bargain buys.
The Albion head coach studied about 50 videos and reports on Long before making his move for the former Reading player, reportedly paying £6.5m for him – a record for the Hawthorns club but one set during a summer in which Manchester City, despite posting a single-year loss of £195m, spent £72m on Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri.
"We didn't even pay £5m, so let's get that right," Hodgson said. "But we are not operating at that level. It will be a long, long time before this club posts a loss of £195m a year – it won't be in my lifetime.
"Shane Long comes into the category of players we are able to afford and that's where Dan Ashworth does an incredible job. There are not many clubs in the country that work harder in terms of watching and researching. That's why he can turn up a Peter Odemwingie or a Youssouf Mulumbu and that's why he can turn up a Shane Long, seeing in him the player I think he is, bringing an extra dimension to our game."
Long's header from a Nicky Shorey cross settled an entertaining, high-quality match in which Zoltan Gera, playing his first home match since returning to Albion from Fulham, set up an opening goal for Jerome Thomas, who was then judged to have conceded a penalty by clumsily falling into the path of Bolton's Fabrice Muamba.
It was Long's fourth goal in 10 Albion games and followed a mercifully short lay-off from the challenge by Aston Villa's Alan Hutton that left him with a chipped bone in his knee but kept him out for only four weeks, although it was enough to miss Ireland's European Championship play-off triumph against Estonia.
"I was devastated to miss those games but Euro 2012 will be a big goal for me and to get your name on the sheet comes down to how you're playing at club level and I intend to perform well week-in, week-out," Long said. A bargain and a man on a mission, too.Reuse content