RALPH Hasenhuttl insists he has no plans to let "important" Shane Long leave the club in January, despite the striker's lack of game-time this season.

The Republic of Ireland international, who spent the second half of last season on loan at Bournemouth, has played just 65 minutes of football for Saints this season, across three appearances.

Only one of those games has come in the Premier League, when the 34-year-old came off the bench in the defeat to Wolves back in September.

Since, Long has been an unused substitute for eight of the subsequent nine top-flight matches, left out of the squad on the other occasion.

The striker was set to make his 230th appearance for the club on Saturday, stripped and ready to come on during the closing stages against Brighton.

However, after the Seagulls equalised, Hasenhuttl opted against introducing Long.

Saints have struggled for goals this season, following the summer departure of Danny Ings. Only Wolves and Norwich have netted fewer in the Premier League than Saints' 14 so far.

Asked how much Long can help the club's other strikers, boss Hasenhuttl told the Daily Echo: "Yes, sure he can help them and I am very happy to have him in my squad.

“It was close for him to start against Liverpool. I had him in my mind because it was a good game for him.

“Then finally I decided to give the young players a chance because I thought it was a game where they can learn a lot.

“But, definitely, he is important for them.

“What he can do best is definitely work with his effort, his professionalism with the young lads. He is a good role model I think, one of the good role models we have in our team."

Asked if he may have to have a conversation with Long ahead of the January transfer window regarding his playing time, Hasenhuttl added: "No, because I think the clear message, especially for an experienced player is that they have to accept the different role they have when they are getting older.

“I was playing until I was 37 years old and, especially in my last years, I was very often only a joker and helped the team when they needed me for 10 or 15 minutes.

“This is the job you have to do then. This time will come for everybody who plays long because it is normal situation in every club that the older players are stepping back and that the job is done from the young ones.

“They still have an important role to play in a club, in a team, in a dressing room – to be positive with us, to support everybody and this is a job he does perfectly."