George Long will be handed the opportunity to secure a place in Sheffield United’s first-choice eleven next season, writes James Shield.
The former England under-18 goalkeeper has impressed coaching staff at Bramall Lane after emerging as a pivotal figure in Motherwell’s emphatic Scottish Premiership play-off victory over Rangers.
Long joined the North Lanarkshire club on loan towards the end of last season and had been expected to return for another spell next term. However, with United dispensing with manager Nigel Clough’s services eight days ago, the 21-year-old is now poised to compete with Mark Howard for a starting role.
Long performed a string a key saves when Motherwell visited Ibrox for the first-leg of their double-header against Stuart McCall’s sides and believes the experience of facing a hostile 49,200 crowd will stand him in good stead.
“It was brilliant,” Long said. “It was certainly the loudest crowd I’ve ever played against, so to come here and get a win was something pretty special.”
Motherwell secured their top-flight status -and condemned Rangers to another campaign in the second tier - by recording a 7-6 aggregate success at Fir Park.
Stuart McCall, the former United midfielder and Rangers manager, wants to secure the post on a permanent basis but acknowledged the Glaswegians’ board is now likely to consider alternative options.
“Of course I want to carry on,” McCall said. “It has been an honour and privilege and I feel I can do the job.
“I think my three biggest strengths as a manager are recruiting people, as I did here at Motherwell, getting the best out of people and improving people. But it won’t be for me to decide.”