Another weekend, another 48 hours spent watching football rather than actually taking part.
When George Long started Sheffield United’s first match of the season at Bolton Wanderers, little did he realise it marked the beginning of possibly the most testing period of his career.
But the former England youth international, who was once again omitted from the team sheet when Chris Wilder’s squad visited Fleetwood Town at the weekend, has been offered an olive branch by United’s manager.
Long’s request to explore his options after being dropped in favour of Simon Moore is unlikely to have gone down well with the 48-year-old. But Wilder, speaking ahead of tomorrow’s Checkatrade Trophy tie against Walsall, has refused to rule-out the possibility of a first team recall.
“He (Long) can’t leave until January,” Wilder said. “He has been ultra-professional, worked very well, and he has to because this is his career.
“I don’t write anything off in football. We could lose two goalkeepers pretty quickly, George comes in and we go from there. Nothing is ever done and dusted until someone leaves the club. George is still here and contracted to us.”
Wilder’s decision to name Aaron Ramsdale as Moore’s deputy in recent weeks reflects both his faith in the Steelphalt Academy graduate’s talents and probably disappointment at Long’s initial response to being deselected. Indeed, rather than hand Long an outing in the Group H fixture, United could hand Ramsdale his senior debut. Providing, that is, he receives permission to report late for international duty after being called-up for England’s latest under-19 squad.
Despite also representing his country at under-18 level, Professional Development League football remains the height of Ramsdale’s experience at Bramall Lane. Something coaching staff will be keen to address if he retains his place on the bench.
Moore, previously of Brentford and Cardiff City, has impressed since joining United earlier this term. But, hidden within Wilder’s most recent eulogy about the 26-year-old’s potential, was a coded message for Long who suffered a dip in confidence during the club’s chequered start to the campaign.
“One of the things I like about Simon is the way he responds,” Wilder said. “But it also helps that he’s getting pushed, every single day, by Aaron and George.”