Sheffield United: George prepares for the long haul

George Long in action for Sheffield United � BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
George Long in action for Sheffield United � BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY

George Long, the Sheffield United goalkeeper, will report for international duty with England’s under-20 World Cup squad next week ahead of this month’s Group E qualifier against Iraq.

Long, the only League One player in Peter Taylor’s 21 strong party, is scheduled to fly to Turkey on Wednesday following 72 hours of intensive training at the Football Association’s state-of-the-art St George’s Park complex.

England’s tournament begins on June 23 when Hakeem Shaker’s side provide the opposition at Antalya’s Akdeniz University Stadium and Taylor said: “I think there is a good blend and a decent balance there.

“I tried to look at all different things, like the people who perhaps haven’t played so much but will be feeling fresh and certainly the ones who are in form as well.

“When we had the (initial) training camp there was a really good spirit and everyone got along well.”

Long made the cut after impressing at a selection camp in Cheshire last month. The teenager, who has made 49 appearances for United, is the most experienced goalkeeper at Taylor’s disposal and will compete with Sam Johnstone of Manchester United and Middlesbrough’s Connor Ripley for a starting role.

England face Chile, coached by Mario Salas, three days after their fixture with Iraq before travelling to Bursa’s Ataturk Stadium for their potentially pivotal encounter against Egypt on June 29. Chile reached the semi-finals of the tournament in Canada six years ago while Egypt have been crowned African champions on four occasions.

Peter Crouch, who represented England at the competition in 1999, recently cited that experience as a turning point in a career which has since spawned over 40 senior caps.

Long, speaking soon after his call-up was announced, said: “Just by being in this type of environment should help to make me an even better player. It’s going to be very intense and the rest of the lads are all quality so I’ll have to be at my best at all times.”

Long, who graduated from United’s Redtooth Academy in May 2011, was an ever-present for the South Yorkshire club after replacing the injured Mark Howard last year.

He has previously been capped at under-18 level.