Sheffield United: Long stay a benefit to Blades keeper

Blades keeper George Long
Blades keeper George Long
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Over the next couple of months, George Long could well be rubbing shoulders with a few Premier League players.

But he might be prepared to listen more intently to those players he comes across who are at Premier League clubs but who haven’t had a chance in the first team.

If he gets the nod when final selection is made, the Sheffield United goalkeeper will be out in Turkey next month as part of England’s Under 20 squad for the FIFA Under 20 World Cup.

At the moment he is one of four goalkeepers named in the provisional squad of 35 which will be cut to 21 on June 7 ahead of the three-week tournament starting on June 21.

Interestingly, Long is the one with the most first team experience having been United’s regular goalkeeper since the beginning of October after injury to Mark Howard. Two of the others, Jamal Blackman (Chelsea) and Sam Johnstone (Man United) are at Premier League clubs but have never played for the first team.

Johnstone had a late season spell on loan at Walsall.

It is this experience, and the way that he has handled it and come through, that enabled Long to be in the U20s frame.

Of course, other clubs have had a watching brief on the 19-year-old but with every prospect of being United’s first choice next season, the benefits to Long of gaining more valuable experience with the Blades in League One are obvious.

Certainly staying on appears of greater benefit, in playing terms, than moving elsewhere as a likely understudy with limited first team action.

There are others with South Yorkshire connections in the provisional squad including right back John Stones who left Barnsley for Everton in January.

Two Everton colleagues also included are Ross Barkley, on loan in the first half of the season at Sheffield Wednesday, and John Lundstram who was on loan at Doncaster at the end.