HULL CITY have done very well out of raiding Sheffield United in recent years and George Long is hoping to continue that trend.
The 24-year-old recently completed his switch from Bramall Lane, following in the footsteps of Stephen Quinn and fellow Academy graduate Harry Maguire.
Quinn went on to help the Tigers to promotion in 2013 and then played in the FA Cup final a year later, and Maguire has become one of the hottest properties in English football after making great strides at the KCOM Stadium.
Such has been his rapid progress, in fact, that Jose Mourinho has this week urged the Manchester United board to push through a £65m deal for the Leicester City defender.
With Hull having a decent-sized sell-on clause, a further windfall above and beyond the £17m banked for the defender last summer seems to be on its way.
Asking Long to replicate his good friend’s stratospheric rise is a tall order. But the Tigers goalkeeper is looking to take inspiration from Maguire.
“Harry hasn’t done bad, has he?” Long told The Yorkshire Post. “It has been great to see him do so well. We came through the same youth team together.
“We then played first-team together so to see him progress like he has is fantastic. I couldn’t be any happier for him.
“He went to the World Cup, got in the starting XI and was one of England’s best players on the world stage. For a lad from Sheffield, he isn’t doing too badly.
“I have been in touch over the summer. I texted him a few good luck messages, that sort of thing. Though I am sure he had that from every man and his dog this summer. But I am delighted for him.
“He will kick on even further and, no doubt, be playing Champions League football, if not this season then certainly soon.”
Maguire, like Long, was given his chance early at the Lane. Both made their debuts within a month of each other in the Spring of 2011 and went on to chalk up more than 100 appearances for the Blades.
“Harry was like me in that he played a lot of games as a young lad,” added Long. “He racked up a phenomenal amount of games.
“It is great for any young player’s development. That is what you want, as it is the best way to learn.
“You can work on the training ground but until you get that opportunity to showcase it when things matter with three points on the line in front of a crowd, you don’t really learn about it.
“It is why playing is the best learning curve for any young player.”
As Maguire finds himself in a tug-of-war between Leicester and Mourinho’s United, Long is focused on making the No 1 jersey at Hull his own after being reunited with former Blades manager Nigel Adkins.
“The gaffer here was brilliant when we were together at Sheffield United,” added the Tigers goalkeeper, who spent last season on loan at AFC Wimbledon. “As a young goalkeeper, for a manager who had been in the Premier League to back me like that gave me confidence.
“I near enough played a full season (when Adkins was in charge for 2015-16), maybe 40-odd games. It was fantastic. Coming here to Hull City and having that connection through working with him is great for me.
“There were other clubs interested but the Championship and the gaffer meant Hull seemed the right fit for me.
“This is a fantastic opportunity and I am glad it is all sorted. This is a club that wants to get going again.
“A few new lads have signed and this feels like a young, ambitious group. The club seems to be going in the right direction. The facilities are great and everything is laid out in the right direction. It is now down to the players.”