No rushing Howard ahead of Long year!

George Long
George Long

Goalkeeper Mark Howard will not be rushed back to action until he is 100 per cent fit, Sheffield United manager Nigel Adkins insists.

Howard missed Chris Morgan’s testimonial against Newcastle United on Sunday, after suffering a thigh injury in the warm up before United’s friendly against Exeter City last week. George Long, the former Motherwell loanee, stepped in and Adkins said: “We’re very happy with George in goal.

“Mark can dive around and make saves, but he can’t kick the ball so we’ve got to be careful with him and get it right, because it’s a long season ahead of us.

“George has shown what a good goalkeeper he is, so it’s good to have that competition for places but we want Mark fit, so we don’t want to take any risks and have anyone breaking down.

“Jamal [Campbel-Ryce] came on at half-time against Newcastle and he’s had a great pre-season, but we didn’t want him to play too much because of one or two little niggles.

“We also got Matt Done out on the field, which is nice because he’s missed a lot of pre-season. So from that point of view, I’m very pleased with where we are at this moment in time.”

United continue their pre-season preparations tonight aty Macclesfield, which could see a ‘debut’ for returning striker Billy Sharp following his £500,00 move from Leeds United.

The striker, beginning his third spell at Bramall Lane, was introduced to the crowd alongside fellow new-boys Conor Sammon and Martyn Woolford before the 2-2 draw with Premier League side Newcastle.

And Adkins, who has worked with the 29-year-old at Scunthorpe, Southampton and Reading, said: “I’ve enjoyed two promotions with Billy, so we’re looking for a third. He scored over 50 goals in this league in two seasons so he knows what it’s about, and you can’t have enough goalscorers.

“I know where to get the ball to Billy, and he’ll stick it away. To get promoted we’ll need 86 goals at least, and we have a lot of options now. I’d rather have too many than not enough.”

Meanwhile, United have added Keith Briggs to their coaching staff - after convincing him to quit his managerial post after just 23 days, writes Ricky Charlesworth.

Briggs left his role as boss of non-league side New Mills on Friday, just over three weeks since being unveiled as manager.

The 33-year-old was appointed boss of the Derbyshire outfit on July 2, but has now decided to accept a position within United’s academy set-up.

And club treasurer Patrick Kenyon admitted: “When a Football League club comes calling, you can’t not accept it.

“The timing couldn’t be worse for us really.

“However, we knew Keith was ambitious as a manger and that he wanted to go places.”