Long ready to take his chance with Ireland
Shane Long has told Giovanni Trapattoni he is ready to lead the line for the Republic of Ireland in their crunch Euro 2012 qualifier against Slovakia on Tuesday night.
The Republic, who are looking to bounce back from Friday's 3-2 defeat by Russia in Dublin, were dealt a major blow on Sunday when striker Kevin Doyle was ruled out of the match in Zilina with a knee problem.
With manager Trapattoni seemingly committed to playing two up front, either Long or Doyle's Wolves team-mate Andy Keogh looks certain to be given the nod.
And it is 23-year-old Reading frontman Long who looks the favourite after coming off the bench to score the Republic's second goal on Friday.
Long said: "Nothing's set in stone yet but I'd love to get a run on Tuesday night. It's a massive thing to play for your country and I've only started once for Ireland in a competitive game.
"If I get the nod, I'll be ready. It's nice coming off the bench when the other team's a little bit tired but I feel like I've been playing well for my club and it's nice to show what you're about.
"With the players we have in the squad, when you do get the chance you've got to take it. That adds to your own game a bit when you know it's now or never, you go out and give it your all and hopefully it's enough.
"They're big boots to fill so there's going to be extra pressure on whoever comes in up front but I'm looking forward to the challenge. It's a big game and if we can get three points it would turn the table right round."
The Republic go into the match locked on six points with Slovakia and Russia after losing their 100% record in the group, and Long admitted the stakes have now been raised heading into what is expected to be one of the most difficult matches of the campaign.
The striker said: "We've got pride and it's not nice to lose at home but if we get a win in Slovakia it will redeem things a bit. Three from six points wouldn't look so bad.
"At the start of the group stages we thought maybe draw our away games and try to win as many home games as we can but after Friday three points is more of a reasonable target for us."
A lot of the focus in the aftermath of Friday's loss has been on the Republic's reliance on the long ball, with defender Richard Dunne particularly critical.
Long, though, has a different perspective, and is happy to take over from Doyle as the target man.
"I feel I'm good in the air as well," he added. "Defenders don't expect me to get up there but I can surprise them and if it comes long I'm sure I can deal with it.
"I don't think we set out to play like that against Russia but it was hard to pass through the middle. We seemed to get a few shots off from that approach and it seemed to work so why change something that works?"