Long ended the uncertainty surrounding his future by accepting a new two year contract yesterday.
But the goalkeeper and his representative, who had been scheduled to sign a new deal towards the end of last season, asked for more time to study the proposed agreement after learning it had been revised as part of manager Chris Wilder’s drive to “regain control” of United’s wage structure.
Bramall Lane’s hierarchy are believed to have tweaked aspects of Long’s contract after unveiling Wilder four weeks ago. Relations between Long and the United manager are known to have remained cordial throughout the negotiation process.
Wilder expressed his “confidence” the 22-year-old would sign before last night’s announcement and predicted the former England youth international could emerge as pivotal figure during the forthcoming campaign.
“With this position, a lot of it is psychological,” Wilder said. “Most of the lads are good technically or can make saves. There is pressure and expectation at this football club and quite rightly so. It takes a special person to handle that.”
“George has had ups and downs during his career,” Wilder added. “The same as any other player. Everyone involved in football is the same. But he’ll learn from those and be better for them. He’ll keep on getting better and works hard to improve.”
Long has made nearly 150 senior career appearances since graduating from the Steelphalt Academy in 2011. He helped Motherwell retain their Scottish Premiership status during a spell on loan at Fir Park two seasons ago before returning to South Yorkshire. He fought-off competition from Mark Howard to establish himself as United’s first choice goalkeeper under Wilder’s predecessor Nigel Adkins last term.
Aaron Ramsdale could deputise for Long when the 2016/17 campaigns begins in August after impressing coaching staff with his performances at Professional Development League level.
Long, who is now contracted to United until 2018, insisted he wanted to remain in South Yorkshire before Wilder’s arrival and has proven his loyalty by signing a contract thought to be worth less than the one originally tabled during Adkins’ tenure.