Long: Clarets poor run a test of character
KEVIN Long was sent off when he made his Football League debut. Now he’s hoping his career is about to take off, after committing his future to Burnley.
It has only been in the last few months of the defender’s initial three-and-a-half year deal that he has been able to break into the side.
Long believes the wait is about to pay off, and is already looking forward to at least the next two years after penning terms up to the summer of 2015, with a further 12-month option.
Personal achievements have been overshadowed by the Clarets’ dip in form, however. with Burnley going into this afternoon’s game at Charlton Athletic without a win in six.
But Long believes there are big enough characters in the dressing room to overcome their poor run.
“If we keep playing like we did against Middlesbrough and Brighton we’ll pick up points eventually,” said the 22-year-old, who recorded a clean sheet on his full debut at home to Boro.
“From a personal point of view it’s great to be in the team playing games, but we’re not picking up results at the moment so it’s kind of disappointing. “The last three games we’ve been on top for most of them. “The other night (against Huddersfield) the effort was there but we didn’t pass the ball well enough. “In most of the games we just haven’t got that bit of luck in frontof goal and the other teams seem to score when they get a chance. Things aren’t going our way at the moment. “There are definitely big enough characters to bounce back. I know we’re good enough as well.”
Burnley’s January form certainly backs up those claims.
Three wins, and clean sheets, from four in the new year pushed the Clarets to the fringes of the play-off positions.
They have not been able to live up to expectation since. But Long insists there is no cause for concern.
“It’s always the case, if you go on a run people talk about the play-offs, then as soon as there are a few bad results they’re talking the other way.
“If we get a few wins people will be saying we can make the play-offs again,” said Long, who feels the Championship becomes even more unpredictable at this time of year.
“The second half of the season every year teams are playing for a lot more. Some teams are trying to battle against relegation, some teams are going for play-offs and automatics, so I think every point is vital this time of year.
“That’s why it’s a lot harder. At the top of the table it’s really close and the bottom is tight as well. “Everyone’s fighting for points at the moment and trying to go on those runs and get results.
“When we played Middlesbrough they’d had a few bad results. “They came and sat behind the ball and tried to play for the draw, we just couldn’t break them down. “It’s really tough to play teams like that and break them down. “Hopefully if we play as well as we can I know we’re good enough to get the three points.”
Long will go head-to-head with a familiar face at The Valley today, with Leon Cort set to start for the Addicks.
The former Stoke defender was Brian Laws’ first signing two weeks after Long’s arrival under Owen Coyle.
It was an uncertain time for then teenager Long, following his move from Cork City.
But Cort is among those he credits with his football education.
“All of the defenders here have helped me along. Michael Duff and Jason Shackell are talking to me in training every day about what I can improve on.” said the centre half, who insists loan spells with Accrington Stanley, Rochdale and Portsmouth over the last three seasons have made him a better player – even if his first spell with Stanley got off to the worst possible start.
“When I first went to Accrington I hadn’t played any league games (in England) and I got sent off on my debut after 17 minutes,” he said.
“But that made me stronger mentally, and physically to get used to the pace of the game. “I’d only played a handful of games back in Ireland so when I came over I was very raw, so every loan spell has done well for me.
“When Owen Coyle left and a new manager came in he wanted to bring in his own players. Then a new manager comes in again and he wants to bring in his own players. “It’s been really tough. “But I needed all the loan spells really to get used to English football. I think the last three years have been vital for my education.
“It’s been good for me in a way because each time I’ve been out on loan, I think I needed that development rather than just go straight into the team.”
Now he’s in the team, he doesn’t want to come out.
“I knew I could get my chance,” he said. “So hopefully I can just stay in the team now.”