George Long, the Sheffield United goalkeeper, has been told England manager Roy Hodgson will be monitoring his performances closely ahead of next week’s under-21 friendly against Scotland at Bramall Lane.
The message, delivered by Hodgson’s assistant Ray Lewington, comes after he was named in the 25 strong party which entertains Billy Stark’s side on Tuesday evening.
“The fact that Roy is the man picking the team and dictating tactics and he is the person they have to impress to get into the senior squad, I imagine they might be a little nervous but I often think you play your best in those situations,” Lewington said. “The players will see it as an opportunity to show to the England Manager that they are ready to go into the senior squad, or ‘look at me, I’m coming’.
“From our point of view we’ll see that character, and it will be a good thing for the players.”
“We will come out of this get together knowing these boys far better than if we were simply watching them play for their clubs on a weekly basis, or even watching them train. Being around them and being part of the same setup, will be completely different and we’ll get to know them far quicker than we could have dreamed of. It’s terrific for us and we’re cutting a lot of corners by coaching them and being in the dressing room with them.
“I think this is absolutely ideal for us. I don’t think you learn about players until you’ve been with them on the training pitch.
“When you’re on there and getting down to the business, you get a feel for their characters and get into the heads of players.
“The more spontaneous and natural it is, the more you find the real person and I love working on the training pitch for that reason. How they train, what they say, how they react, you get a real feel for a person.
“When Roy suggested we might do this, I couldn’t see any negatives about the situation. It allows us to know more about what is effectively the next generation of players coming through at first hand.
“We can talk to them one-on-one, talk to them as a group, be in the dressing room with them before the game seeing how they react, how they’re behaving.
“We will come out of this get together knowing these boys far better than if we were simply watching them play for their clubs on a weekly basis, or even watching them train. Being around them and being part of the same setup, will be completely different and we’ll get to know them far quicker than we could have dreamed of.
“It’s terrific for us and we’re cutting a lot of corners by coaching them and being in the dressing room with them.”
Hodgson volunteered to oversee the fixture with Scotland when Stuart Pearce was informed his contract would not be renewed following the European Championships earlier this summer.
The identity of Pearce’s permanent successor is scheduled to be unveiled before next month’s Euro 2015 qualifier with Moldova.
Together with Lewington, Hodgson will return to London immediately after the match to take charge of the senior international between the two teams at Wembley 24 hours later.
Long, aged 19, is expected to make his 51st appearance for United when they visit Brentford this afternoon.
Lewington also represented the South Yorkshire club during his own playing career before rejoining Fulham in 1986.
“I was actually only there one year,” he said. “The history of it was that I had left Fulham, they were selling all their players and I went to Sheffield United.
“It was the year they made a real effort to get into the top division. They went out and bought a lot of experienced players, I was 28 and I was one of the youngest players they signed.
“People like Peter Withe, Phil Thompson, John Burridge, Ken McNaught, they bought real senior boys and really went for it. I think we were top at Christmas, but we had a real poor second half of the season and a lot of lads got injured myself included.
“We finished around sixth place but we should have gone up. We should have done better than we did but we fell short.
“Unfortunately it cost Ian Porterfield his job, which was a shame because he was a lovely man.”
Lewington added: “It was a great shame because the club is a massive club and the support is phenomenal. Sheffield is such a football city, and when you think of the two clubs, United and Wednesday, there is a fierce rivalry.
“I remember watching a reserve game between the two teams and there was 7,000 people there, it’s that sort of rivalry.
“Bramall Lane is a Premier League ground and I remember the atmosphere when we were going well being really good. We felt really deflated that year because we felt we were good enough to win it and we should have done that.
“A combination of injuries and loss of form meant we didn’t really fulfil our potential. But I still enjoyed my time there.
“I had signed a four year deal and fully intended to stay for the duration but I got a call from Ray Harford who was leaving Fulham and he told me that the new owners were keen on a player manager, and particularly one who had played for Fulham.
“That began my coaching career and it was the only reason to leave Sheffield United. I was very grateful for them in allowing me to go just a year after joining.
“They were reluctant at first but they knew it was something I really wanted to do.”
Tickets for Tuesday’s game, which kicks-off at 7.30pm, are priced at £10 adults, £5 concessions and £20 for a family of four* (*T &C’s apply). For details, telephone 0871 995 1889 or visit www.sufc.talent-sport.co.uk