Nigel Adkins, the Sheffield United manager, is convinced George Long will reap the benefits of his return to the club’s first-team squad.
The goalkeeper finished last season on loan at Motherwell before being recalled, at Adkins’ behest, following the 50-year-old’s appointment in June.
Despite Adkins removing him from the firing line after watching the youngster concede four goals on the opening day of the new League One season, Long made his eighth successive start against Coventry City yesterday.
“He’s demonstrated his qualities and made some very good saves, others that you’d expect him to make,” Adkins said.
“We played him in the first game and he conceded early. There were a lot of travelling supporters behind the goal and, yes, as a young man it can be hard to deal with. But that’s the Football League. Can you deal with it?
“He’s young and has got an excellent coach in Darren Ward. But he’s shown his qualities, his standards and his attitudes.”
“George is very brave,” Adkins, speaking before City’s visit, added. “Look at the way he dives at feet or comes through bodies. For a young player, that’s vital.”
Although Adkins concedes Long is still far from the complete footballer - “Goalies don’t peak these days until their 30s probably” - United’s coaching staff privately insist they have noticed a marked improvement in his decision-making of late.
But talent alone does not solely explain Adkins’ readiness to persevere with the former England under-20 international and Steelphalt Academy graduate.
Long, aged 22, is a standard bearer for the latest generation of players working within United’s youth programme.
“He’s come through our system, which is important,” Adkins said.
“There has got to be a pathway.”