Howard has boss' backing

Sheffield United boss Nigel Clough is happy to put his total faith in goalkeeper Mark Howard ahead of the upcoming League One campaign.

The Blades have allowed George Long to join Oxford on loan, leaving just 19-year-old youngster George Willis as cover for Howard.

However, Clough is content to make 27-year-old former Arsenal trainee Howard his clear-cut No 1 following a solid end to last season.

"There is a school of thought that goalkeepers need to have competition to get the best out of them but that doesn't seem to be the case with Mark in pre-season," declared Clough on the club's official website.

"He impressed against Fenerbahce and made a couple of fine saves at York, despite knowing he is already the undisputed number one following George Long's loan switch to Oxford United.

"We have George Willis as back-up and he will train and learn from working with Mark, whilst George Long will get some vital experience in League Two."

Howard gained experience from spells with Falkirk, St Mirren and Aberdeen up in Scotland before moving to Bramall Lane via Blackpool and is hoping to pick up where he left off last term, when conceding just four goals in United's last seven league games.

"It is always nice to make a save, although I would happily stand there all season and not have a thing to do," he commented. "That won't happen, though, so even if the team are dominating in a game, I must always be ready when called upon to do my bit. It is an old cliche but it is all about concentration.

"I hate conceding goals, so when the serious stuff starts on Saturday, all I will be thinking about is keeping a clean sheet."