George Long is looking forward to a battle with Max Crocombe to become Oxford United’s first-choice goalkeeper after joining on loan yesterday.
The Sheffield United stopper, who was in the England under 21 squad last season, passed a medical yesterday and will stay at the U’s until the new year.
With Ryan Clarke possibly sidelined until late November following foot surgery, it leaves Long and Crocombe to fight for the jersey over the next fortnight.
The pair are expected to be given 45 minutes each in a behind-closed-doors game against Fulham this weekend.
Long is keen to play, after falling down the pecking order at the League One club last season and is looking forward to contesting the starting place with Crocombe.
“We have both got to push each other in training and see who gets the nod come the start of the season,” he said. “At the back end of last season I was on the bench.
“The manager (Nigel Clough) said he was going to keep it that way, so he wanted me to go out and get games.
“I’m thankful he’s allowed me to do that and come to a great team like Oxford and hopefully get some more minutes under my belt.
“As a young player that’s where you develop, getting experience through first-team games.
“It’s definitely the best option for me at the moment.”
U’s boss Michael Appleton welcomed the increased competition for the place and was delighted with the signing, his second since joining the club.
He said: “George is very highly rated and has been part of the England set-up so we are very excited to have him here.”
The two goalkeepers are both 20 and went to the U-20 World Cup in Turkey last summer.
But while New Zealand-born Crocombe, stuck behind Clarke, has only played four first-team games, Long arrives with more than 70 under his belt.
It would suggest Long is the favourite to start in the season-opener against Burton Albion in two weeks’ time, while the Blades are unlikely to want their player to swap the bench at Bramall Lane for one at the Kassam Stadium.
Clough said: “The lad will only develop further by playing games regularly and it doesn’t matter what level we are talking about.
“He is already a very good goalkeeper, but he will improve further by being exposed to different situations."
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