West Brom striker Shane Long today claimed he is ready to fill the void if Romelu Lukaku leaves the Hawthorns – and insisted he is relaxed about his contract talks.
The Republic of Ireland international “fully intends” to stay as negotiations over a contract extension continue.
And the 26-year-old pledged to “step up to the plate” if the Baggies fail to secure 17-goal top scorer Lukaku on loan for a second season.
Lukaku’s future is uncertain while Peter Odemwingie seems set to leave this summer and fellow forward Markus Rosenberg has struggled so far in the Premier League.
Long, who captained Ireland last night in their 4-0 win against Georgia, said: “Will Romelu be back? I don’t know. We could be low on a few strikers next year.
"He scored 17 goals and it’s going to be hard to replace. Maybe it’s my time to step up to the plate.”
Long insisted he is not worried about his contract talks with the Baggies dragging on and is happy to wait for a new deal.
He has a year remaining on his current agreement plus an option for a further season and has been in talks for months over an extension, without a breakthrough.
He said: “I’m very happy there. I fully intend to stay but we will talk about contract situations and see what happens.
“The new manager has come in this year and he has built a team that’s competitive in the Premier League.
“There are a few lads up in the air about contracts and it will be interesting to see what happens over the summer.
“I have a year and an option, so probably two. I have still got two years left at West Brom, and that’s what I am focusing on at the moment.”
For much of last season, Long had to share striking duties with Lukaku as boss Steve Clarke Clarke preferred to play with a lone striker.
He ended the campaign with eight goals in the Premier League and 11 in all competitions.
Long said: “I was doing well during a lot of season and the manager said to me at the end of the season he was very happy with how I had done.
“It was just with the build-up of games, he chose to rest me for one game and Romelu came in and scored.
“We understood our roles. We shared the load up front. More than likely, we went with one striker and it was either me or him.”