Sheffield United: England chief challenges George and Co

George Long has been called up by England's under-21s  � BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY

George Long has been called up by England's under-21s � BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY

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England manager Roy Hodgson, who yesterday named George Long in his squad for next week’s under-21 international against Scotland, is excited by the prospect of visiting Bramall Lane, writes James Shield.

A crowd of over 25,000 is expected to descend upon Sheffield United’s stadium for a match which has been described as a dress rehearsal for the European Championship qualifier with Moldova on September 5.

Hodgson, whose assistant Ray Lewington once represented the South Yorkshire club, said: “I’m looking forward to leading the team out at such a fine stadium as Bramall Lane, the oldest professional ground in this country with a great deal of history and where Ray played.

“I know from experience what an atmosphere can be generated, and when you add the rivalry of the two teams, I’m sure it will be a fantastic occasion.”

Long, who travelled with England to the FIFA under-20 World Cup earlier this summer, has made 50 appearances for United since progressing through the ranks.

Tuesday’s fixture, which could also feature former Sheffield Wednesday loanees Connor Wickham and Ross Barkley, is particularly significant given Hodgson’s presence on the touchline.

The 65-year-old, who took charge of the seniors 15 months ago, assumed temporary responsibility for the Young Lions when Stuart Pearce’s contract expired.

Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling, Nathan Redmond of Norwich City and Swansea midfielder Jonjo Shelvey have also been selected in the 25 strong party.

Long will report for duty at St George’s Park following United’s visit to Brentford tomorrow.

“I feel there are significant benefits for both myself and Ray in working with these players,” Hodgson added. “It is one thing to watch from the sidelines, or to see a game on television, but to actually work with them at first hand on the training field is very enlightening.

“We have a younger group of players as the cycle begins that will lead to the UEFA European Under-21 Championship in two years time and this marks the start of that long road.”

“Although the term ‘friendly’ is a much maligned one, any sporting contest between England and Scotland is bound to be hugely competitive,” Hodgson continued. “I also hope that the supporters play their part as for younger players with less experience it is an important lesson in their development to play in front of a big crowd.

“With the history of this fixture, the two oldest teams in international football, I would also encourage everyone to enter into this contest with the right attitude.

“We want to win but we must also uphold the values of respect and fairplay both on and off the pitch.”

The game has also been chosen to commemorate the 20th anniversary of equality and inclusion campaign Kick It Out.

Hodgson said: “This fixture is particularly poignant as the same two teams met in this stadium in 1977 when Laurie Cunningham became the first black player to play for England at under-21 level and ended up scoring the winning goal on his debut.

“The work of Kick It Out over the past two decades deserves great credit and this is a fitting match to celebrate its work and progress.”

Tickets for England under-21’s versus Scotland under-21’s, which kicks-off at 7.30pm are priced £10 adults, £5 concessions and £20 for a family of four*. (*Terms and conditions apply). Sheffield United season ticket holders and members can take advantage of a ‘Two for One’ offer for a limited period only. To purchase tickets, visit the Bramall Lane box office, telephone 0871 995 1889 or visit www.sufc.talent-sport.co.uk

*Twitter: @JamesShield1