BOSS Jonathan Woodgate described as a “great character” on-loan frontman Shane Long and insisted he was “huge” for Cherries to have around the squad.

The Republic of Ireland international, who signed from Saints in February until the end of the season, made his return from a groin injury in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Wycombe.

The 34-year-old played the final 23 minutes of the clash at Adams Park – his first taste of action in the Championship since Good Friday’s 3-1 victory over Middlesbrough.

Long has scored two goals in 10 appearances during his time at Cherries, having been brought in by former boss Jason Tindall in the final hours of the transfer window.

But head coach Woodgate revealed he had enjoyed working with the experienced frontman – and how his arrival had been important for the squad.

Woodgate told the Daily Echo: “I think it’s huge for us as a young group really, to have Longy in there.

“Dom (Solanke) has been on fire and when Sam (Surridge) has come in he’s done okay as well, getting that goal at Norwich.

“But Longy will be a huge help moving forward for the club.

“I’ve got to be careful with his minutes at the moment because he hasn’t trained for that long a period of time.

“I think he’s about one in three in the Championship for goals isn’t he? That’s his record so it speaks for itself.

“He’s a great character and I’ve enjoyed working with him to be honest with you. He’s been a real help as well.”

As well as chalking up 331 appearances in the Premier League, Tipperary-born Long has experience of playing and scoring in the Championship play-offs.

He netted twice for Reading in the semi-final second leg against Cardiff in 2011, before playing 90 minutes in a 4-2 defeat to Swansea in the final.

Long also featured for the Royals in the 2009 play-off semi-final against Burnley.

Asked about the striker’s leadership and experience, Woodgate replied: “He’s been great, Longy.

“He’s been there and done it, he has got that great experience and he offers the lads advice.

“He’s been a model professional and that’s what you need at a football club in this situation.”

Long could be involved when Cherries host Stoke in their regular season finale on Saturday.

Failure to beat the Potters could result in Woodgate’s men finishing sixth in the division, setting up a two-legged play-off tie against third-placed Brentford.

Swansea and Barnsley are the other two clubs still vying for a place in the top flight.