Shane Long insists he is committed to West Bromwich Albion and hopes to be part of a squad playing in Europe next season, despite recent speculation linking him with a move away from The Hawthorns.
Albion head coach Steve Clarke has spoken recently of several of his players attracting interest from bigger clubs and possibly moving on in the summer. Having reportedly caught the eye of Lazio last month, Long fits that bill perfectly.
The Republic of Ireland international, though, is adamant that he is settled and enjoying life in the Midlands.
“I’m happy here,” he said. “I like playing for the manager. He is very good and I’m learning a lot every week. The lads are good, the family are happy up here, so I’m not looking to move on. I’m concentrating on this season and hopefully getting a few more goals before the summer and kicking on from there.
“Now we have got to 40 points, 50 is the next target and, with Everton losing (at Norwich), we are back in the chase for the top six or seven. We’ve got to aim high now and pick up a few points on the road. We may as well aim for Europe. I think we’ve got a good enough squad to do it.
"The way we played at times against Sunderland was very good, the passing football. It was important that we kicked on from a good win at Liverpool and got our home form back on track. It had been a while since we won here. Sunderland is no easy game and we made hard work of it at the end but we got the right result.”
Long’s fitness will be monitored this week after he rolled his ankle three days ago. His availability for Saturday’s trip to Stamford Bridge, where he scored last season in a 2-1 defeat, is vital given that in-form Romelu Lukaku is ineligible to play against his parent club.
And with that absence in mind, Albion are also glad to have started the process of reintegrating Peter Odemwingie into the team.
The controversial Nigeria international went on as a late substitute against Sunderland on Saturday for his first appearance in more than a month and almost marked his comeback with a goal, after initially being booed by the home fans.
“He is obviously a very good player,” Long said. “It is nice to see him get on the pitch and he nearly got a goal straightaway, which would have been nice. The fans know he wants to play for this club now and he is going to give his all.
“We’ve a few tough games between now and the end of the season. We managed to win at Liverpool, put in a good performance at Manchester United and we go to Chelsea after nearly winning there last season.
“But it is not going to be easy. Chelsea seem to win games even though people are saying they are not playing well. You look at their line-up. We are not getting ahead of ourselves. We know it will be a tough task but we are confident in the way we are playing and we can put up against any team.”