DANNY Wilson has ordered Mark Howard and George Long to battle it out for the right to become Sheffield United’s first-choice goalkeeper next season.
And with the departure of established number one Steve Simonsen creating a vacancy between the posts, Wilson, the United manager, warned the loser could face a lengthy wait before being allowed to stake another claim for the role.
“We’ll take a look at them both,” Wilson said.
“Whoever gets the nod, we’ll stick with them.
“They’re both very good players who are both more than capable.”
Despite Wilson’s assertion, Howard appears in pole position to start when United return to League One action against Shrewsbury Town on August 18.
The 25-year-old has yet to make a senior appearance since arriving at Bramall Lane four months ago but boasts spells at Blackpool, St Mirren and Aberdeen on his CV.
Long, by contrast, made four starts last term but a lack of experience could count against the England under-19 international.
Wilson said: “What George needs now is games. That is of paramount importance.
“Unfortunately the reserves can’t really give him that because the fixture schedule can be quite sporadic.
Mark has impressed us but Simo was in really good form when he came in.”
Simonsen, who made a series of fine saves during May’s League One play-off final before missing the penalty which handed victory to Huddersfield Town, was informed his contract would not be renewed soon after returning from Wembley.
Wilson subsequently described the decision as “financial” although, with Howard signing a two-and-a-half year deal after failing to reach agreement with Blackpool, Simonsen’s long-term future at Bramall Lane always seemed in doubt.