Sheffield United: Clough will allow Mark or George to depart on loan

Mark Howard (left) and George Long are both admired by manager Nigel Clough � BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
Mark Howard (left) and George Long are both admired by manager Nigel Clough � BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
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Sheffield United will allow either George Long or Mark Howard to leave Bramall Lane on loan next term, writes James Shield.

Nigel Clough made the admission after claiming his plan was in the “best interests” of both the club and the players themselves as he looks to construct a promotion winning squad.

The United manager told The Star last night: “We will decide which of them starts the new season and then let the other go out elsewhere to get some games.

“Doing that will be better for the team as a whole and also either Mark or George for a number of reasons.

“We have the luxury of having two very good ‘keepers at our disposal. But goalies aren’t like outfield players because they know, if they are on the bench, there is very little chance of them actually coming on.

“If they are playing matches then they stay sharp. When you let one of them go out then you always have a 24 hour recall there and so it means, if we did find ourselves in a position whereby we had to make a change, the one coming in would be sharp and up to speed.”

Long, who earned his first call-up to England’s under-21 squad in August, started the present campaign as first choice before Howard, aged 27, was recalled for the FA Cup replay at Fulham two months ago.

“Experience, especially at the stage George is at in his career, is vital and he needs to be gaining that all the time,” Clough, speaking ahead of today’s League One fixture against Leyton Orient, added. “Mark will also tell you that, even though he’s older, he needs to be getting regular football too.

“That’s why we think this is the best solution to what is a very nice problem to have.”

*Twitter: @JamesShield1