Starting out at boyhood team Everton before moving to fellow Premier League outfit Burnley, Long’s career has yet to really take off at the highest level, managing only 12 combined appearances for both of those clubs.
His career path has instead been littered by five loan spells over three years. Those include Milton Keynes Dons and Brentford while at Everton, and then Fleetwood Town and Bolton from Burnley last season, with his latest coming at Sixfields this term.
It’s not gone all plain-sailing, partly due to injury and partly due to a lack of service, but there have been flashes. Scorer of two goals against Portsmouth in September and then another well-taken one all of his own making at Oxford United on Saturday, the former England U20s man clearly has potential.
He’s got the right manager to unlock it too.
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Hasselbaink, not only a prolific striker himself, is meticulous in his preparation and always demands the best out of his players, so for Long, still only 22 himself, who better to learn from than a man who scored 127 goals in 288 Premier League appearances?
He said: “To be honest he goes mad at me because I always want to stay behind doing shoot practise!
“He wanted me in and resting when I had a slight hamstring injury but learning from him, you can’t get enough of it.
“I just want to be on the field all the time with him because you learn so much from him and that goal (against Oxford) might mean I can do more shooting now!
“He wants the best out of everyone in the squad and all the lads are repaying him, but now we need to crack on to the next game and keep repaying him on the pitch.”
For the third time in two weeks, Scunthorpe United are the opposition for Northampton on Saturday and Long, who won promotion to the Premier League with Burnley, knows his side must be consistent if they want to continue climbing the table.
Three straight wins have lifted Town from 23rd to 19th, two points above the relegation zone.
“We’ve got everyone more or less back fit now and we’re firing,” said Long. We’re unbeaten but we’ve got to carry on.
“When we got promoted with Burnley we went on a long run unbeaten and that’s what we need to do in this league to be where we want to be.
“We’ve just got to keep cracking on and keep doing what Jimmy wants us to do.”