Long seen as one for the future as Blades fend off interest from United

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SHEFFIELD United manager Danny Wilson has beaten Sir Alex Ferguson to the signature of the next Joe Hart.

Goalkeeper George Long shot to Ferguson’s attention during last season’s FA Youth Cup when the Blades reached the final and lost to Manchester United.

Long, still only 18, signed a new four-year deal with the Blades yesterday to end speculation about an imminent move to Old Trafford.

Blades manager Wilson, however, insists it won’t be long before Long is playing in the Premier League and even thinks the teenager has the potential to go on and rival Manchester City goalkeeper Hart for the England number one jersey.

“I didn’t see Joe Hart but I heard how good he was at that age,” said Wilson, “I think George also has the potential to have a very strong career and follow that line.

“Whether he can get to England number one? I don’t know. But I certainly think he will be a Premiership goalkeeper.”

Long became the youngest goalkeeper to play for the Blades last season when making his debut against Swansea City aged just 17 years and 183 days. He has subsequently played another four times for the club, but will be allowed to go out on loan to gain further first team experience.

The Blades hope to complete the signing today of former St Mirren goalkeeper Mark Howard who has been training with the club since being released by Blackpool last month.

Howard, 25, will provide cover for first-choice goalkeeper Steve Simonsen between now and the end of the season.

“Hopefully, nothing is going to happen to Simmo but you need to be pre-armed just in case,” said Wilson, who released Estonian international Mihkel Aksalu last month.

Blades midfielder Lee Williamson, meanwhile, is again doubtful for tomorrow’s game against Preston North End due to a calf injury.