SHANE Long declared he’s happy to continue sacrificing himself for the team – as long as Danny Ings continues to bang the goals in.

Long’s return to the starting XI has coincided with Saints pulling themselves away from the relegation zone.

A lot of that has been down to the partnership between himself and Ings.

The ex-Liverpool striker is sat on 15 Premier League goals, just two shy of Jamie Vardy’s 17, but he would admit a lot of those have come because of the work put in by Long.

And speaking to the official Southampton FC website, Long said: “I think we get each other.

 “I have a bit of experience, so I think he understands what I’m going to do, and he’s a talented footballer as well. 

“I don’t mind throwing myself about, upsetting defenders and holding the ball up, and that allows him to get time in the box where he’s lethal. He’s a brilliant finisher. 

“Don’t get me wrong, he’s good with his build-up play as well, but any chance we can get for me to do the work and get him into the box, it’s always good for the team – as you can see, 15 goals in the Prem this season and a lot more to come.

“He’s one of the top strikers in the league at finishing, so you want to get him in the box.

“For me it is all about results at the moment. We’re on 31 points now and we’re looking up rather than looking down. As long as Danny doesn’t stop scoring, it takes the pressure off me a bit!”

Part of the strike duo’s success leading the line for Saints is due to the pressure they put the defenders under.

Ralph Hasenhuttl often cites the attackers as his first row of defence and wants them to lead the press.

Explaining how the team manage to do this in sync, Long added: “If one person doesn’t press in the right manner with the right attitude, it kills everybody else. 

“I think you can see in our performances over the last couple of months that we’ve got it right.

“Instead of being half there, half not, and being easy for the opposition to play around us, we’ve been fully committed and been there on time. 

“Danny knows when he goes I’m behind him. And I know when I go Pierre and Prowsey are coming behind me. Everybody is on the same wavelength. 

“I think that’s why we’re getting the results we’re getting because everyone is committed to what the manager wants us to do.” 

Such has been his return to form, it’s looking increasingly likely that Long will return to the Republic of Ireland set-up.

Manager Mick McCarthy left him out of the previous squad because he felt he wasn’t playing enough for Saints.

But with the 33-year-old now being one of the first names on the team sheet, McCarthy recently claimed the striker’s “exactly where I need him to be”.

Speaking about a potential return to international football, Long said: “Obviously not being in the squad here, the manager of Ireland decided to pick players who were playing at club level and I was overlooked. 

“I spoke to him about it, we kept it very civil, he told me his reasons and I accepted that. 

“It was tough because I was really looking forward to it at the time and I needed that game time. I wanted something to clear my head because I wasn’t involved here, so that was a killer blow for me. 

“I think it was the first squad since I’ve got into the Ireland team where I’ve been fit but not selected. It was tough for me to take – another body blow, as I say, but I’ve got over it. I’m still in touch with the manager – we haven’t fallen out or anything.”