England call-up beckons for Blades star Long

George Long
George Long
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Harry Maguire is backing his Sheffield United team-mate George Long to join him in international recognition after an impressive start to his Bramall Lane career.

The teenage goalkeeper – who will learn this morning whether he has won the League One player of the month for October – has been a pivotal part of Danny Wilson’s side this season.

Long is the latest product of the Blades Academy and, like Maguire, is now shining in first-team duties.

Maguire, 19, is now firmly a Blades regular and his form earned him an England Under-21 debut this week against Northern Ireland.

“George has great potential and everyone can see he has great talent,” said Maguire.

“I am sure he won’t be far behind me joining the England squad. He has the temperament to step up.

“You can see in training, week-in week-out, that he is unbelievable – a great size for a goalkeeper and I am sure he will make that step-up one day.

“I think one day George will get a call-up to the Under-21s. He has great all-round talent, but his main thing is shot-stopping. As you have seen in some of our games, he can pull off unbelievable saves.”

In October, the Blades won six out of seven matches, drawing against Oldham Athletic in the other game, and conceded just three goals as Long belied his years.

The Blades have produced a number of players over the years who have gone on to Premier League duty, including Phil Jagielka, Kyle Walker, Kyle Naughton and Matt Lowton.

Maguire said he hoped Blades’ youngsters would look at the progress made by himself and other players like teenage goalkeeper Long as role models for a new generation of aspiring footballers.

“When I was coming through I can remember both Kyles coming through, Jagielka at the time, and look where they are now, playing for England.

“It was a great achievement and shows what can be done. It shows what a great Academy we have at United. Go down there on a Tuesday or Thursday night and you will see some great potential, and I am sure some of the Under-12 or Under-14 lads will come and progress into the first team.

“It’s a great club, you get good coaches in and they get you passing the ball from a young age. They don’t want you just to boot it so you can play both styles when you come into a first team.

“Two years ago I was playing for the youth team on a Saturday morning thinking ‘will I ever get my chance?’

“Fortunately it all kicked on from Cardiff, Joe Mattock got injured and I got my chance, I will never forget it. I have never really looked back.”

After away games at Bristol Rovers, Swindon and MK Dons – plus his England adventure at Blackpool in midweek – Maguire was relieved to finally spend some time back home.

“I have been away from home an awful lot this last week or so, but it’s nice to be back home and we now have two games at Bramall Lane which it would be nice to take maximum points from,” he said.

Maguire is likely to be part of a revamped defence tomorrow as regular full-backs Tony McMahon and Matt Hill are struggling with hamstring injuries.

The pair hobbled off after sustaining the injuries in the first-half in the 1-0 defeat at MK Dons last weekend.

“Both are struggling, we have got another 48 hours or so to see whether they will be available or not, but I am preparing without them,” said Blades manager Wilson. “It remains too early to say how long they will both be missing for. Hopefully, it is sooner rather than later but it won’t affect our preparations.

“It is a major blow because both have played very well this season and it is no coincidence that we have had so many clean sheets with them in the team.

“They are experienced players, but we have to cope without them, even if the dynamics of the team changes again.”

Wilson has ruled out any loan deals before the visit of Stevenage and said the game offers a chance to his squad players to make their claim for a first-team shirt.

“In an ideal world we would love to have them both available but we have some good young players waiting in the wings and they won’t let anyone down,” said Wilson, who is aiming for an awards double with Long after being nominated for the division’s manager of the month.

“At the moment we will go with what we have got, although the squad remains very thin on the ground.

“We have to make the most of what we have available because we won’t have any reinforcements in before the weekend,” he said.

Striker Dave Kitson has also been ruled out, and is also a doubt for Tuesday night’s game with Crewe.