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Published: 01:09 | 8/8/16

Long hopes to win over new boss Puel


Southampton striker Shane Long hopes to cement his place as a regular starter under new boss Claude Puel at St Mary's this season.

Long, who scored the only goal of the game in Saints’ 1-0 pre-season win over Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, is keen to lead the line in Southampton's Premier League opener against Watford on Saturday.

The Republic of Ireland striker, who signed a new four-year deal with the Saints in July, only became a regular starter at St Mary's midway through last season under then-manager Ronald Koeman.

Koeman has since departed to become Everton boss, while last season's top scorers Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle have departed for Liverpool and Chinese club Shandong Luneng respectively.

Long, who has scored 21 goals in 73 games since joining Southampton from Hull for £12m in 2014, hopes his pre-season performances have impressed Puel, who left Ligue Un side Nice in June to take over from Koeman.

"I feel like I’ve played well in pre-season and that I’ve put my name forward to be in the starting eleven, but there’s Charlie [Austin], Jay [Rodriguez] and Nathan [Redmond] there as well for those positions and hopefully I’ll get the nod on Saturday," Long told the club's official website.

"I know I’m going to have to play well to keep my position in the team because we’ve got a lot of quality in the squad.

"I haven’t really got a good run week-in, week-out for a whole season here. The end of last season was good so hopefully I can do that for 38 games."

In other Southampton news, Puel says he expects Portugal international defender Jose Fonte to stay at the club despite speculation linking the Euro 2016 winner with Manchester United.

"Yes [I expect him to stay]. He is a very important player for the squad and the team," the Frenchman told Sky Sports.

"It's fantastic to have two players that are champions of Europe, with Cedric Soares.

"Only we can say that. Jose came back with the squad and it's important to keep him with a good head and attitude."

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