Sheffield United have opened contract talks with George Long as Nigel Adkins, the League One club’s manager, begins the process of assembling its squad for next season.
Long, the former England under-20 goalkeeper, is scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the present campaign but, after dislodging Mark Howard from Adkins’ starting eleven, will be rewarded with the offer of a new long-term deal.
Although Long’s performances in recent months are known to have attracted admiring glances from elsewhere, The Star understands that United’s hierarchy are confident the 22-year-old is minded to commit his future to Bramall Lane.
Securing Long’s services for the 2016/17 campaign is also viewed as being of symbolic importance given Adkins’ desire to see home-grown players eventually total “50 per cent” of his first team squad.
“There’s a pathway already here and it’s up to me to develop that even more,” Adkins said. “It’s my responsibility to make sure that happens. I care a lot about academies and I’ve shown that throughout my career elsewhere.”
“However, the flip side is also my responsibility for the first team,” he added. “I have to deliver there.
“You’ve got to be brave enough to put the young lads in but also know they are good enough to help you get results.”
Long, who finished last season on loan at Motherwell, is expected to make his 38th appearance of the season when United’s visit Coventry City tomorrow. His rapid progress since returning from Scotland, however, has cast a shadow over Howard’s plans for next term given the player’s previous admission that he prefers to “chase games” rather than be content with a place on the bench. Young goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, who is set to feature for the under-21’s during Monday’s Professional Development League play-off against Charlton Athletic at The Valley, has also been training with the first team in recent weeks after impressing Adkins with his performances.
United travel to the Ricoh Arena in ninth - four points behind sixth-placed Barnsley with only two fixtures remaining. Despite admitting last weekend’s draw with their South Yorkshire rivals has left them “up against it”, Adkins has made no apologies for refusing to rule United out of the play-off race.
“I won’t tolerate anyone here giving up,” he said. “That’s not what we do here,”