Sean Long has once again caused a stir in the world of rugby league by returning to his home town club Wigan Warriors as part of the coaching staff and writer David Kuzio believes he should be welcomed back and given a second chance.
Even as I type those words something doesn’t feel right. Long has been a hate figure amongst the DW Stadium faithful for many years and some of them will find it very difficult to cheer or back that man.
I don’t expect them to be chanting his name every time they see but I do expect a bit of respect shown and hopefully the end to the vile chants that have been circulating for years.
Long started his career with Wigan as a youngster back in 1994 and looked to have a promising career at the club until he was palmed out to join his dad at Widnes in a deal that saw the Warriors sign Tongan prop Lee Hansen – not the best bit of business ever done but never mind.
At the time it was believed Wigan thought Long’s knees would not last and that he wouldn’t make it and therefore decided to cut their losses, although some fans would like to believe it was for off the field matters but I actually think Wigan thought they were doing the right thing.
After playing nine games for Widnes, Long left the club to join St Helens and that is when the real hating of Long began in the eyes of the Wigan fans. He was one of their own turning out for the old enemy and he seemed to be enjoying it. Wigan fans will back any player that leaves the club unless they join Saints.
Maybe deep down they hated him because they knew how talented he was or that they could always get a reaction from him off the field, but the abuse he received when playing against Wigan goes down in folklore. One game at the DW Stadium, not long after he admitted betting against his own team, he was booed out of his socks with every touch of the ball.
Well the abuse continued for years and even when he was water boy for the Salford City Reds earlier this season he was still getting abuse hurled at him from the Wigan spectators, well maybe it is time to call a truce.
Yes, I know a lot of fans can never forgive him for playing for Saints, or for betting on his own team to lose, or his many off the field incidents but it is a game of rugby league and we need to move on. Many Wigan fans bang on about how they want a coaching staff consisting of Wigan born men and when one joins the group they don’t like it.
You can’t have it both ways, Sean Long is a Wigan lad and gave his all for every team he played for and his coaching role with the Warriors will be no different. Now you have to remember, and this won’t go down well, Sean Long never left Wigan, the Warriors got rid of him. He continued to live in the town and has never hidden the fact he is a proud Wiganer.
Is it his fault he went to better himself as a player? Is it his fault his best days came at Knowsley Road? The answer is no, I honestly think if Long had either stayed at Widnes or become a journeyman moving from club to club he would not have become this massive hate figure and he would have faded into the background like so many ex Wigan players.
It is time to forgive and forget, he is back at the club and every single Wigan fan should give him a chance to show what he can do, if he screws up then he will shoulder the blame for blowing his best shot of becoming a top coach in the game.
A lot of Wigan fans, possibly all of them, will not agree with my words and say his off the field antics have been a disgrace and Wigan as a club does not need that sort of influence around the youngsters, but not every allegation on Long is true. Chairman Ian Lenagan is not the sort of man to ruin his reputation on a gamble. Long is at Wigan for a reason and I think Lenagan and Shaun Wane’s judgment should be respected and backed.
David Kuzio also writes for Livestreamingsport.com