DANNY Wilson, the Sheffield United manager, last night insisted he has no fears about exposing goalkeeper George Long to the rigours of League One competition.
Wilson, speaking ahead of this afternoon’s encounter with Oldham Athletic, told the teenager he has nothing to prove, having already earned the respect of teammates and coaching staff alike.
With Mark Howard, United’s preferred choice between the posts since August, set to miss the next 12 games with a thigh problem, Wilson said: “George can be as good as anything that’s around.
“If he plays well then great. If not then it won’t change our opinion of him because he’s a really talented and cracking lad.
“George has been champing at the bit for a while now. All the way back to last season in fact, so this is a great opportunity for him.
“Okay, so he’s not got a huge amount of experience. But the only way you get that is by playing games - and he’s got bags of ability.
“I’m amazed George hasn’t injured anyone in training because he’s so whole-hearted. He’s getting more vocal too.”
Long delivered an assured display as he deputised for Howard at Leyton Orient last weekend, producing one fine save to ensure United prepared for Oldham’s visit third in the table and still unbeaten in the competition this term.
The England youth international is poised to make only the seventh senior appearance of his career against Paul Dickov’s side and, despite his show of faith, Wilson concedes a lack of recognised cover will force him back into the emergency loan market.
n Blades: P42