George Long believes he is finally ready to become Sheffield United’s established No.1 goalkeeper under new Bramall Lane boss Chris Wilder.
The 22-year-old stopper signed a new two-year contract at his hometown club earlier this week, having graduated through United’s acclaimed youth academy to reach the first-team.
Long is the oldest goalkeeper on United’s books and is approaching 150 career appearances; and he insists he is now ready to become the main man between the posts.
“I believe I am,” Long said.
“But, of course, nothing is ever guaranteed in football. What I do know is that I will be trying my utmost to keep that No.1 shirt if I am given it, and will work hard every single day to be the best possible player I can be.
“I have confidence in myself and I’m experienced now. I look at last season; the first game didn’t go to plan, when we lost 4-0 away at Gillingham, but I worked hard in training, put my hours in and eventually fought my way back into the team.”
Long made his United debut as a 17-year-old and has been called up to England’s U21 side during his time as a professional at Bramall Lane.
“It is working on the small details,” he added.
“I have a lot of games under my belt, but there’s always room to improve. After each game, training sessions... it’s important to improve all the time. If you are standing still, people are overtaking you.
“You must keep looking for the marginal gains and edge over the other players out there to take you to the top. By this time next year, I hope to be a Championship goalkeeper with United and I want to be a Premier League goalkeeper one day.
“My ambition is to play in the Premier League and for England, so it’s time to kick on. I’ve got almost 150 games under my belt, so I’m not a youngster anymore.”
Long admitted there was a hint of interest elsewhere in his services, but insists that he was never planning to leave United: “After speaking to the gaffer, I liked his approach,” Long added.
“He did a fantastic job last season with Northampton and if we can replicate that and try and dominate the league, which we are more than capable of doing, that is something I want to be a part of.”