Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni has played down the suggestion that he was punishing West Brom striker Shane Long for his conduct while on international duty.
The Baggies striker caused confusion within the Ireland camp after the 0-0 friendly draw against Serbia when he maintained that he was fit just moments after Trapattoni had announced that he had been carrying an injury.
However the Italian coach stressed that he had never punished any of his players, before detailing the various strengths of the former Reading striker, referencing the Baggies' 2-1 win over Wigan Athletic on Saturday November 10, which he attended.
"I have never punished anyone. I asked him (in Serbia) 'how are you?'" Trapattoni told reporters. "Maybe after the shower, he said 'I am well' and strutted like a cockerel. But he is a very genuine person."
He continued: "On Saturday (against Wigan), he recovered two or three balls back from behind the opponents, that is one of the situations (of marked improvement).
"When our team looks for him, they have to understand that he can come and look for the ball, not only wait for the long ball," said Trapattoni
The Boys in Green will take on Greece in a friendly international at the Aviva Stadium on Wednesday November 14.