Sheffield United: Clough refuses to play the Long game

Sheffield United goalkeeper George Long � BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
Sheffield United goalkeeper George Long � BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
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Sheffield United manager Nigel Clough has expressed reservations about extending George Long’s loan spell with Oxford, writes James Shield.

The former England under-18 goalkeeper joined Michael Appleton’s side on a temporary contract during the close season but has failed to make an appearance for six weeks.

United are scheduled to review Long’s situation in January and Clough told The Star: “We’ll speak with everyone involved but George is the absolute priority in all of this. He’s the one we want to take care of.

“Obviously it’s not ideal that he’s on the bench at the moment because we sent him out to get some games.

“We’re not sure if we can even recall him ourselves, I don’t think we can, unless there’s an agreement between the two clubs involved, that we both decide that’s the right thing to do but we’ll see.”

“It’s something we’ll sit down and take a careful look at. We want the best for our player, the same as everyone else.”

Long, aged 21, made his professional debut for United in May 2011 after graduating from the Redtooth Academy and, despite his predicament at the Kassam Stadium, is regarded among the club’s brightest young talents.

However, with Oxford spiralling down the League Two table following his appointment in July, Appleton handed Ryan Clarke a starting role following a defeat by Luton Town just over a month ago.

Clough added: “The difficulty is that, even if George did come back, he wouldn’t be getting a game here at the moment either because we’ve got Mark (Howard) and Iain Turner.

“But he’s someone we rate highly and that’s why we want to do what is best at this stage of his career. George is due back in the New Year but I’ll have a chat with Michael and see what is the best course of action to take.

“Everything will be decided by what’s best for George.”

*Twitter: @JamesShield1