By Nick Purewal, PA
Ralph Hasenhuttl has hailed “role model” Shane Long’s patience and professionalism after notching his first Premier League goal for Southampton in all but two years.
Long nodded home to seal Saints’ 2-0 win over Everton on Saturday, for his first top-flight goal since the 2-0 victory over Aston Villa on February 22, 2020.
The entire Covid-19 pandemic stands between 35-year-old Long’s last two Premier League goals, but despite that drought Hasenhuttl still heaped praise on the Republic of Ireland striker.
“Longy’s a very, very important player for our team: he’s fantastic in the dressing room, and we’re very happy for him,” said Hasenhuttl.
“It’s very simple: he’s a super-professional guy who works hard in every session.
“He’s always positive, and he’s not always had an easy time, not playing, waiting for his chance.
“Then in the cup he showed how important he is for this team.
“So it’s absolutely fantastic to have him on the bench, because he’s always ready when he’s needed and I know I can trust him.
“I think he knows very well what role he has to play now at this age. He’s a role model for how you should act.
“This is the reason why we decided to extend his contract two years ago.
“I knew he was an important player in every moment, calm when not playing and supporting the lads, but also there when you need him.
“And that’s what you need from an experienced player.”
Southampton dominated Everton from first to last at St Mary’s on Saturday.
The hosts should have been in control by half-time, but Kyle Walker-Peters struck the outside of the post with Jordan Pickford well beaten.
Stuart Armstrong’s measured finish finally put Saints ahead after the break, before the evergreen Long converted Tino Livramento’s inch-perfect far-post cross.
Frank Lampard pulled no punches on Everton’s current troubles, but insisted the Toffees can still push for quick improvements.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin produced a patchy performance but could hardly have been expected to achieve more given the miserly service on offer.
And Lampard insisted he will not judge the England striker on that south-coast outing.
“We can’t use Dominic as a battering ram, he’s got too much quality for that,” said Lampard.
“We are strong at that end of the pitch but we have to make sure we’re making the most of that.
“And it certainly wasn’t a game to judge Dominic on goal input.
“But I know that when he gets fit and we get better he will be a big threat for us.
“Heads dropped for us and I understand it. Form always has consequences of confidence.
“But the only way I know how to change that is by work and by focus.
“There will be other days like this for us, and I saw things from us as a group that I didn’t like.
“But we need to stay very, very together as a club now, and I also have confidence that we will get better and come through this because of all the positive things I’ve seen.”