He’s finally back. After an 11-year wait, Shane Long has returned to Reading, agreeing a one-year contract after his release from Southampton at the end of June.
This move ticks a few boxes. The Royals get another option up top, adding a back-up to Lucas Joao who brings something a bit different tactically while still exuding plenty of experience. While questions will be asked of the 35-year-old’s durability, he’s still managed a respectable 13, 22 and 26 league appearances in his previous three campaigns.
Enough of that though. Bringing Long home means so much more than pretty much any other transfer Reading will make for quite some time. After all, he’s a dearly cherished member of the 106 squad and went on to really stand out in an electric 2010/11 campaign, scoring 21 in 44 league matches as the Royals oh so nearly won promotion back to the Premier League.
In many ways, Long embodies Reading Football Club at its very best. The Royals snapped him up in a bargain deal from Cork City in June 2005, developed him expertly and patiently over the years, and then reaped the rewards on the pitch. Few strikers compare favourably to his 54 goals in 202 appearances. He’s a shining example of what a well-run Reading can achieve.
It’s no surprise that Long earned his own move to the top flight, being snapped up for around £4.5m by West Bromwich Albion in August 2011. After three years at the Hawthorns and a brief spell at Hull City, Long settled at Southampton. Over eight seasons on the south coast he scored 37 goals in 243 appearances. That period also included a brief return to the Championship though, with Long spending the second half of the 2020/21 season on loan at Bournemouth.
As the years have passed, the idea of Long returning to Reading has kept going, even if as more of a remote possibility or in-joke. Seemingly every transfer window, fans have joked about spotting Long in The Oracle shopping centre as sure-fire evidence that he was on the brink of signing.
This year though, our dreams came to fruition. Berkshire Live’s Jonathan Low reported in early June that the Royals were monitoring Long’s situation, with head of football operations Mark Bowen later confirming the club’s interest. On July 1 there was a “breakthrough” in talks before the deal was finally done in mid-July.
It’s been a Long time coming, but the Royals finally have their man. Welcome home Shane, we can’t wait to see you back in the team.