Shane Long will complete a perfect few days when he leads the Republic of Ireland out for today’s friendly against Georgia.
The 26-year-old West Bromwich Albion striker has been handed the captain’s armband for what will be his 36th senior appearance for his country, with manager Giovanni Trapattoni fielding a much-changed side.
Long’s honour comes just days after he gave Ireland a dream lead against England at Wembley, and he admits he could hardly have enjoyed a better week. He said: “I didn’t think the week could get any better after Wednesday night. It was obviously a great thing for me to score at Wembley, but I think the biggest honour you can get is to captain your country and I was delighted to get the nod from the gaffer.”
Long was only informed of his elevation after training in Malahide yesterday when Trapattoni called him to one side.
He said: “The boss kept the team close to his chest. He asked how many caps I had – and I might have exaggerated a little bit. But he told me I was the most-capped player and he wanted me to lead the team out tomorrow, and obviously it is a personal highlight for me.”
It will be the first time Long has captained a senior team, although he had plenty of experience as both a footballer and a hurler during his younger days.
He said: “In underage football, I got the captaincy quite a bit, but I have always been the young one in every squad so far, so it’s nice to get the nod.”
Trapattoni opted for Long as his captain after confirming his progression from young to senior player, something which came as a surprise to the frontman.
“It kind of came up fairly quickly on me. I have been in the squad a long time, I suppose, I have been with the lads a long time,” Long added.
“I always dreamt of this day coming, so I am delighted it’s finally here.
“Normally, I’m fairly quiet on the pitch, but I think tomorrow will be different and I will be trying to help out the team as best I can.”
Long’s appointment as captain comes nine months after Trapattoni labelled him “idiotic” after he told reporters he was fit to play in a friendly against Serbia despite being withdrawn because of injury.
However, the Italian has since put his comments down to naivety, and the pair have resolved any differences.
Long said: “I don’t think the boss called me an idiot, he said I was idiotic for what I said. It was a bit out of context.
“I think he was looking out for me in the long run, so it’s all forgotten about now.”
Long will hope to end his season in style against Georgia today as he is suspended for Friday’s World Cup qualifier against the Faroe Islands and will miss Ireland’s friendly against Spain in New York because of his wedding on 15 June.