By Mikey Davis
The Southampton and Republic of Ireland forward put pen to paper on a 2 year contract extension, keeping him with us until the end of the 2021/2022 season. Excluding academy graduates, Longy is our current longest serving player and assuming he sees out this new deal, he is set to make it 8 years with the club, a rarity at Saints over the past few years and I for one welcome this news with open arms.
There is no doubting that Longy is the ‘marmite’ player in our current squad, you’re either a fan of his or you’re not, it’s as simple as that. I like many others are a big fan of his work and what he brings to the team but many others purely base their opinions on ‘stats’. Longy has 30 goals in 6 seasons with us, with a third of them coming in the 2015/16 season under Koeman where he flourished in the absence of Pelle who was first choice striker at the time. During his time with us so far, Longy has been involved in some historic moments for the club, both as a squad member and individual moments, our highest ever Premier League finish, THAT Semi Final goal at Anfield and breaking Ledley King’s quickest ever Premier League goal record away at Vicarage Road last season to name a few.
The number 7 shirt to us Saints fans needs no introduction. This shirt brings big expectations and added pressure to deliver the goods. There is no denying that Long needs to add more goals to his game at times but purely basing whether he is good enough for our team on his goal scoring record is a very harsh approach and one which personally I believe to be slightly naïve. Longy, who already has 11 years Premier League experience to his name, brings a lot of positives to the table which manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has highlighted many times before.
At the start of the current campaign Longy wasn’t even making the match day squad and looked to be out of favour, roll on pre COVID he was playing with confidence, playing well and scoring goals, a testament to the man himself. He’s a player which doesn’t get in the headlines for the wrong reasons by expressing his urge to leave, but instead knuckles down and fights for his place, a true professional. Longy said himself when interviewed last week that he has had to prove himself to 5 managers in his time with us, and I for one feel under Ralph he fully deserves his place in the starting XI and can continue to help the team win games.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that without Danny Ings, our season would have been very different. It has been a breath of fresh air seeing the local lad bang in goals left, right and centre this season, and for me personally would have been fully deserved of a place in Southgate’s Euro squad. I personally believe Longy has been a big factor in Ings’ success this season and is the best strike partner to play up top with the Englishman. Ings has been clinical in front of goal so far this season and is rightly reaping the rewards but without the dirty work being done by his strike partner Long, would his goal tally be the same? Danny himself, similarly to Ralph has come out and praised his strike partner for what he brings to the team and how he has benefitted from playing alongside him.
As stated before, Longy divides opinion amongst us Saints fans. He isn’t the most technical player for sure but he certainly makes up for it in other aspects of the game. Former England International Joleon Lescott stated that Long is up there with the toughest forwards he played against in his Premier League career and used to dread coming up against the Irishman. Longy for me is a defenders nightmare and everything they don’t want to have to deal with for 90 minutes. Longy is well known in the game for being a ‘runner’ which he is, but for me, I believe this to be a throw away comment, it’s what he does with his runs and his pace that is so effective. His runs draw defenders away, allowing Ings more time and space to put the ball in the back of the net which he has done for fun this season, the constant high press which Ralph wants the team to use, forcing opponents to have to kick the ball long or even better, forcing an error from them. In addition to this, the leap that Longy has on him for a man his height is ridiculous. This is backed up when the club released a stat stating that Longy is top of the ‘Aerial Wins’ chart with a staggering 97 wins. This is very impressive considering he wasn’t getting much game time at the start of the season and to be top when we have 6 ft + central defenders competing in this, just puts this stat into perspective. A man that stands at 5 ft 10 inches winning the amount of flick on’s which he does is a real benefit to the team. Ryan Bertrand’s goal at home to Norwich all stemmed from an unbelievable flick on at the near post from Longy, putting it on a plate for the Saints left back with the easiest of first time finishes to double our lead.
To conclude, as we all know, football is a game of opinions, this is why we love it so much and this is a perfect example right here with Longy. For me, he has fully earnt this contract extension and his return to the team coincided with us moving up the table. He will rarely grab the headlines for scoring the goals, but if you look closely he more than certainly plays the ‘unsung hero’ role extremely well.