Sheffield United: Settled defence key, says Blades stopper George Long
Strikers may win you games but as George Long - a fully paid-up member of the goalkeeper's union - will tell you, defenders have a fairly key role to play, too.
“You saw that last season,” the Sheffield United stopper said, “when we had a settled back three. We were keeping clean sheets and not letting in many goals.
“It really helped us. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to get us in the Play-Offs come the end of the season but, going forward, it’s an important part of every successful team. A successful, solid back four, playing week in and week out.
“That way, you get to know each other and know each other’s roles in the team; what each player does, and perhaps doesn’t do so well.
“It’s a big benefit.”
Long, who signed a new two-year deal at his boyhood club last week, will have to develop that relationship with his back four from scratch this season after every senior, recognised centre-half was released by new boss Chris Wilder last month.
Wilder, who also transfer-listed seven members of the squad he inherited from Nigel Adkins, has since placed three centre-halves at the top of his summer shopping list, while John Brayford and Chris Basham could also operate there if needed.
“The gaffer did an unbelievable job last season in winning League Two with Northampton, considering they didn’t have big budget and star players,” 22-year-old Long added.
“If he comes to Sheffield United with that same mentality, it bodes really well going forward.”
United, meanwhile, yesterday confirmed changes to the Bramall Lane board.
A streamlined board, put together by co-owners Kevin McCabe and Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, features McCabe’s sons Simon and Scott, United’s new managing director Stephen Bettis, Tareq Hawasli, Selahattin Baki and local businessman Martin Green.
“The new-look board mirrors a refocusing by the club and its co-owners,” Bettis said.
“We look forward to working closely with our new team manager, Chris Wilder, as he re-builds the playing side, and supporting our off-the-field executives in the development of the business.”
Former Blades midfielder Stuart McCall has returned to management, at his old club Bradford City.
McCall, now 52, made 90 appearances for United.