Alan Knill, Sheffield United’s assistant manager, welcomed George Long’s return to first-team action as the goalkeeper made his first appearance of pre-season at Grimsby Town.
Long missed the first three games of United summer warm-up programme after sustaining an injury during training but completed 90 minutes of Saturday’s 3-1 victory at Blundell Park.
Knill, deputising for Chris Wilder at the post-match press conference, said: “It was good to have George out there, our number one goalkeeper. He’s missed quite a lot of football and was obviously a little bit rusty, which is to be expected, but getting that under his belt will help him a lot.”
Although Aaron Ramsdale has performed well in Long’s absence - an encouraging sign given that he is poised to become United’s back-up goalkeeper next term - Long’s recovery will accelerate the process of knitting together Wilder’s new-look back four.
Centre-halves James Wilson and Jack O’Connell, previously of Oldham and Brentford, performed well against the League Two side and Knill, a former defender himself, said: “I thought they did well. They’re both strong, athletic and mobile, which is important because it helps us get further up and press higher up the pitch.”
“George came through okay we think,” Knill added. “He opened up his knee a little bit a while back and so, when he struck the ball with his right leg, it caused him a bit of pain. Out there, he was hitting the ball with his left foot, which was good because, if that was me, I wouldn’t have reached the halfway line.”
United, who host Derby County on Wednesday evening, are expected to include several first-team players in the development squad which visits Hallam Fc tomorrow. Jake Wright, Ben Whiteman and Kieron Freeman could all feature. Midfielder Louis Reed will have a late fitness test.