We really should stop meeting like this... One week after the return of Gylfi Sigurdsson to the Madejski Stadium, it's now time for Royals fans to be reunited with another recent Reading legend. Shane Long may have carried the tag of "super-sub" for three seasons but after the departure of Kitson, Doyle and Lita, he finally stepped out of the shadows and made his name, firing Reading to a play-off final (and we all know what happened there). His goalscoring record saw him rewarded with a move to West Bromwich Albion, where the Reading faithful will travel on Saturday afternoon. Without further ado, here's a look back at Shane's career highlights for the Royals, complete with videos to relive those golden moments.
All good stories have a beginning... Signing with Kevin Doyle from Cork City in the summer of 2005, Long had raw pace which troubled defenders late on in matches. His first goal for the club was a crucial one in maintaining their remarkable 33 game unbeaten League run en route to the title - his 88th minute equaliser at Derby on New Year's Eve (3:01) ensured the Royals ended 2005 on a high note.
It would be against Derby again where he would have his most memorable performance of the 2005-06 season. Long came off the bench to grab a brace against the Rams, including his first scored with pretty much his first touch of the game (1:24).
Long's first Premier League goal for the Royals came against another promoted side, Sheffield United, as he tapped in from a Sidwell pass (0:44) before bundling Kingsley to the floor. Royals fans might also remember this game as the one where Keith Gillespie received what should be the fastest red card in history, receiving his marching orders after coming on as a sub and elbowing Stephen Hunt before the referee had even blown to restart the match. It also saw a storming run from Ulises De La Cruz to grab his first goal for the Royals. Quite the match!
In the 2007-08 season Long wrote his name into the record books... although not for reasons Reading will want to remember. The Royals travelled to Fratton Park and took part in the highest scoring Premier League game in history, going down 7-4 to Pompey. Long may not have known much about his goal (5:20), deflecting in a James Harper piledriver, but he drew the scores back to 5-3. For all of 2 minutes. The Royals would of course go on to lose 6-4 at White Hart Lane later that year in just another remarkable match in Reading's recent history.
Now here's one I'm sure every Reading fan could watch over and over again. Reading travelled to Liverpool in 2010 in the 4th Round of the FA Cup with little hope or expectation. Caretaker manager Brian McDermott was looking for his first win, and what a place to get it. Shane Long played a major part in the victory - he won the last-minute penalty which Gylfi Sigurdsson calmly converted, then the moment of magic. Brynjar Gunnarsson's Cruyff turn, nutmeg of the left-back then delightful cross which Long gets the deftest of touches onto to head past Cavalieri. A moment which will live in the memory for a very, very long time. This was also Long's first goal of the season - he would go on to net twice at home to Aston Villa in the 6th Round before the Midlands club hit 4 in the second half, as well as plundering 6 league goals.
Then Long's breakout season. It's hard to pick a highlight from this remarkable season for the Irishman, but how about the two most important ones? Having grabbed 21 goals in the League proper, including some spectacular efforts against Middlesbrough, QPR and a thunderbolt against Pompey for his 50th Reading goal, his 53rd and 54th proved to be the most critical. A 0-0 draw at home to Cardiff in the Play-Off Semi Final first leg left the Royals needing to go to Wales and win - and they did so with aplomb. Long's first was a demonstration of how his game had improved at Reading - tireless chasing and a finish of real class. His second, a penalty converted with his customary coolness, to send the game beyond the Bluebirds.
Unfortunately Reading couldn't reach the promised land through the Play-Off lottery, losing to Swansea City in the Final. And as Shane Long sat teary-eyed on the Wembley turf, everybody in the stadium knew he would be plying his trade in the Premier League anyway next season. West Brom it was who swooped for the Irishman, paying around £5m for his services. Luckily though, the Royals were able to secure their own top-flight status just a season later, meaning it wouldn't be long before the club would be reunited with its prodigal son. This Saturday, just as Gylfi got a rousing reception last weekend, Shane is sure to hear his name from all corners of the ground.