He may just be 22 years of age but, as things stand, George Long is the elder statesman in Sheffield United’s promising young goalkeeping department.
The Sheffield-born Blades fan made his first appearance of pre-season in United’s 3-1 win at Grimsby Town last weekend, with boss Chris Wilder keen not to risk any aggravation to his injured foot ahead of August 6’s season opener at Bolton Wanderers.
Goalkeeping duties have instead been shared by young duo Aaron Ramsdale, an England U18 international, and Jake Eastwood, who signed a professional deal with United earlier this year.
And Long, who also committed his future to United by signing a new deal shortly after Wilder’s arrival, said: “Aaron and Jake have been brilliant.
“It’s their first pre-season with the first team and it’s always a tough task to make the step up, physically. But they’re in great shape.
“They’ve handled everything thrown at them in training, and impressed in games, so all credit to them.”
Long, who will start the season as United’s first-choice stopper following Mark Howard’s departure in the summer, has been particularly impressed with the progress of Ramsdale - who was named in Neil Dewsnip’s England U18 squad this summer.
“Both of them are improving all the time,” Long added.
“And, hopefully, working with the first team will see them improve and push on.
“Aaron impressed when he came up to work with the first team and has got England recognition now, so it’s up to him how far he wants to take himself.
“He’s got a great work ethic and has all the tools to succeed.”