Former Sheffield United goalkeeper Paddy Kenny last night congratulated George Long on his “amazing” achievement after the youngster completed a century of appearances for the League One club.
Long revealed that Kenny was the player who inspired him to become a professional footballer having reached the landmark figure against Wigan Athletic five days ago.
And, with Long still nine months shy of his 23rd birthday, Kenny told The Star: “To get to 100 games at such a young age is amazing and, the exciting thing is, you know that George is still probably six or seven years away from his peak. I didn’t really get started until I was 20 or 21.
“He’s obviously playing well right now and so, to get that experience under his belt and still be only 22, is going to stand him in such good stead going forward. That, experience, is vital to play the position.”
Kenny, capped seven times by the Republic of Ireland, was a member of the United squad which gained promotion to the Premier League in 2006 before going on to represent teams including Queens Park Rangers and Leeds.
“Goalkeeper is such a difficult thing for any player, especially a young one, to do,” he continued. “Because of the mental demands of the job. You’ve got to accept you are going to make mistakes and that those are going to be highlighted in a way those by other players aren’t. That comes with experience.
“A striker can miss 10 sitters, score a last minute winner and be a hero. A goalkeeper can make 10 great saves and then let one in. Guess which moment everyone remembers? It’s not a position where you can ever say ‘I’ve cracked it’ but you do get better at handling that with experience.”
“George is obviously playing well and, with this experience,” Kenny added. “You’d think he’s only going to get better and better.”
Long is expected to make his 101st start for United when they visit Doncaster Rovers this weekend. Speaking soon after the defeat by Wigan, which saw Nigel Adkins’ side fall five points behind sixth-place, Long admitted he still owns a pair of gloves signed by Kenny during his spell at the Bramall Lane.
Kenny, now aged 37, said: “I saw George’s mum at the Manchester United (FA Cup) game and she told me he had some. If he wants to send me some of his own now then he’s more than welcome!”