Sheffield United manager Nigel Clough has revealed the club are poised to open talks with George Long aimed at extending the goalkeeper’s contract despite paving the way for him to rejoin Motherwell on loan next term, writes James Shield.
Clough outlined his intentions after confirming that Mark Howard is set to start the 2015/16 campaign as United’s undisputed “number one” following a series of impressive performances last season.
Long was recently informed that Clough would be activating a clause, inserted into the 21-year-old’s present agreement, tieing him to Bramall Lane for another 12 months. However, the former England international has now announced plans to further cement Long’s status as a potential first-team regular.
“We’ll be taking up the option in his contract with a view to him spending the first five months of next season there,” Clough said. “We’d also be looking to extend his contract after taking that option up.
“It all at a very early stage yet so we’ll see. Nothing is set in stone but that would be the scenario we envisage.
“George has enjoyed it, it’s been great experience for him and beneficial for everyone concerned.
“He didn’t have the best of experiences at Oxford at the beginning of the season but then, for him to play in the SPL, has been great.”
Long, who spent a brief spell at the Kassam Stadium before heading north of the border in February, has emerged as an instrumental figure in Motherwell’s bid to preserve their top-flight status.
Clough’s blueprint means United, having recently released Howard’s deputy Iain Turner, will almost certainly recruit an experienced goalkeeper during the forthcoming transfer window.
“Mark will probably start the season as number one,” Clough said. “We’re not saying he’s definitely that because it’s form dependent.
“There are no guarantees long-term. Because you have to play well to retain your place, to warrant it. But we think, over the course of the season, he’s done enough to earn that.”
Motherwell must beat either Hibernian or Rangers in a play-off later this month to avoid relegation to the Scottish Championship.