Football: Star’s family prepare for an emotional evening at Bramall Lane

Sheffield United goalkeeper George Long  � BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
Sheffield United goalkeeper George Long � BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
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The late Laurie Cunningham’s younger brother has admitted tonight’s under-21 international between England and Scotland at Bramall Lane will be a poignant occasion for his family, writes James Shield.

The match, which is expected to attract a 25,000 crowd, has been selected to honour the former Real Madrid winger’s memory after he scored the winning goal when the two sides met at the same stadium 36 years ago.

Keith Cunningham, who will be attending this evening’s fixture, said: “I’m over the moon that the match is being dedicated to Laurie. He was the greatest footballer in my opinion. I know he was my brother, but that’s how I feel.

“He was such a skilful and delicate player. It will bring a tear to my eye to see people of all creeds and colour being there at Bramall Lane for my brother.

“You couldn’t coach what he had, it was all natural. Skills are something you develop on your own when you first have the ball at your feet and he was special.”

Cunningham, who also represented Leyton Orient and West Bromwich Albion, won six senior caps for his country. He died in a car crash in 1989.

Football United, Racism Divides, the Sheffield based anti-racism project, commemorated Cunnigham’s achievements at a celebratory dinner four years ago.

“I was overwhelmed by the support he received that night,” added Keith. “The amount of people that had such positive words to say about him made me cry.

“We were incredibly well looked after, but it also reminded me that he should still be here with us. He was my idol.”

Blackpool’s Tom Ince and Luke Shaw of Southampton have withdrawn from an England squad which includes Sheffield United goalkeeper George Long.

Everton full-back Luke Garbutt has been drafted-in as a replacement while his Goodison Park team mate John Stones, previously of Barnsley, also features alongside former Sheffield Wednesday loanees Ross Barkley and Connor Wickham.

Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling, Nathan Redmond of Norwich City and Swansea’s Jonjo Shelvey could all start.