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Published: 12:50 | 14/2/16

Koeman: Long 'deserves' starting place

Southampton manager Ronald Koeman says Shane Long deserves his starting place ahead of Charlie Austin and Sadio Mane.

The Irishman scored the winner in the 1-0 victory at Swansea on Saturday, on his 50th Premier League appearance for the club.

The former Reading, West Brom and Hull striker was preferred ahead of £4m January transfer window signing Austin and £11.8m Senegal international Mane for his hard-running style, according to Koeman.

"I think he deserves to start because he’s working hard,” said Koeman. “He’s complaining defenders. He’s always on the move. He’s always running. He’s very dangerous.

"That’s the reason every time I start with Shane. Okay, with the signing of Charlie we have big competition. Today, I had Charlie, I had Tadic, Mane on the bench.

"But that’s what we really like to have because a strong squad makes progress and makes competition. Even if the decisions that I have to make are very difficult.

"Every player needs to give the best of himself. For that he needs competition. That’s normal and we like to have this competition because this makes the team really strong."

Koeman says Austin needs to be patient at St Mary's, with the club's joint top scorers Long and Graziano Pelle starting the last two games for the Saints.

"It’s all about opportunities. At the moment he is not starting, but that can change in one or two week," Koeman continued.

"It’s all about what we decide to put the most strongest line up for every game."

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