Sheffield United: Blades goalkeeper saved from axe

Top prospect: United's teenage goalkeeper, George Long.
Top prospect: United's teenage goalkeeper, George Long.
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GEORGE Long has been reassured he is not destined for the axe if Sheffield United sign a new goalkeeper.

Danny Wilson, the South Yorkshire club’s manager, made the pledge after confirming former Wales international Danny Coyne has been invited to train at Shirecliffe.

Long, aged 18, produced an assured display as he deputised for the injured Mark Howard against Oldham Athletic four days ago, and Wilson, speaking ahead of this evening’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie at Notts County, said: “The search for a goalie goes on but the fact that George has played so well has definitely taken the pressure off us.

“In fact, I hope whoever comes in stays on the bench because that means George will have kept on doing well.

“But we do have to bring someone else in.

“With Mark being out, we just can’t keep on gambling that nothing is going to happen to George.

“It just wouldn’t be a sensible thing to do.”

Coyne, who won 25 caps for the principality at full and under-21 level, is expected to learn next week whether he has earned a short-term agreement with Wilson’s side.

The 39-year-old has spent time with Tranmere Rovers, his first professional club, since parting company with Middlesbrough in May.

Wilson, who also acknowledged West Ham’s Stephen Henderson had been a target, insisted he had no concerns about Coyne’s conditioning despite a nine-month break from competitive action.

“Danny has looked sharp,” Wilson said. “We’ve watched him in training and he’s fit. Danny isn’t committed to a club. He’s a serious option.

“But we want to have a look at one or two others - all our options - first being deciding exactly what we’ll do.”

“We’ve spoken to lots of people, I can give you lots of different names if you like,” Wilson added.

“We’ve asked Danny to come in and we’ll probably be doing the same with somebody else later in the week.

“After we’ve assessed everything, then we’ll see where we go from there.”

Meanwhile, as The Star revealed yesterday, United have opened contracts talks with defender Neill Collins.

The centre-half is expected to miss the visit to County with a toe problem but negotiations aimed at extending his deal are understood have reached an advanced stage.

Collins, who has made 81 appearances for United, is scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the season but Wilson said: “We are putting something to him.

“Neill’s attitude is exemplary and you want role models like him around. I don’t know exactly where they (the discussions) are because I’m not conducting them but I do know they’re all very amiable.”

Last month, both striker Richard Cresswell and captain Michael Doyle reaffirmed their commitment to United after consultations with Bramall Lane’s hierarchy.

Sources indicated yesterday that, barring an unforeseen hitch, Collins is expected to follow suit shortly.

United have unveiled John Garrett as their new supporters’ liaison officer.

“I have been fortunate to have had the chance on many, many occasions to interact with the various supporters’ groups around Bramall Lane down the years and have played a part in many of the fans’ forum nights that have taken place over the past couple of years,” Garrett said.

“A successful club must have excellent two-way dialogue between itself and supporters and, while I think that we all have to respect that opinions on all matters will vary from time to time, it is important to listen to each other more closely and find that common ground.”

TEAMS AND REF:

n COUNTY (possible): Bialkowski, Leacock, Regan, Stewart, Bishop, Liddle, Zoko, J Hughes, Campbell-Ryce, Boucaud, Arquin (4-4-2).

n UNITED (possible): Long, McMahon, Maguire, Hill, Williams, McFadzean, Doyle, McDonald, McAllister, Blackman, Cofie (4-4-2).

n Keith Stroud: Sent off Yeovil’s Curtis Haynes-Brown when he last took charge of a Sheffield United fixture 14 months ago. Averaged 3.36 cautions per game during the 2011/12 campaign and 3.33 since August.