According to the Mirror, Derby County have been linked with a January move for Hull City shot-stopper George Long, who has been in fine form for the Tigers between the sticks in the Championship this season.
The Mirror understands that the Rams also hold an interest in out-of-favour Bournemouth shot-stopper, Asmir Begovic, who is back at the Vitality Stadium after spending the first half of the campaign on loan at Qrabag FK in Azerbaijan.
Long, 26, has established himself as the undisputed first-choice between the sticks under Grant McCann this term following the departure of veteran David Marshall to Wigan Athletic in the summer.
The former England U21 international only played a bit-part role at the KCOM Stadium under Nigel Adkins in the previous campaign, serving as the understudy to Marshall, but he has grabbed his opportunities with both hands this term.
The Sheffield-born shot-stopper has turned in some impressive displays in the Championship to keep the Tigers in the race for the playoffs, starting each of the club’s 26 games so far and managing seven clean sheets in the process, including crucial ones in victories over promotion rivals Sheffield Wednesday and Fulham.
Long clocked up a total of 123 appearances for Sheffield United over the course of seven seasons whilst also spending time on loan at Oxford United, AFC Wimbledon and Motherwell before completing a move to Hull City in the summer of 2018.
Meanwhile, Derby County currently sit 17th in the standings, eight points adrift of the top-six. They must improve on a scoring record of just 26 goals in 26 games if they are to get themselves back on track.
A lack of creativity and firepower up top has been one of the major reasons behind their inconsistencies under Phillip Cocu and bringing in some attacking reinforcements would make perfect sense, with loanees Kieran Dowell and Jamie Paterson departing Pride Park.
Derby haven’t done all that bad defensively in the Championship this season and a tally of 34 goals conceded so far doesn’t really do justice to their performances at the back.
Despite the defenders putting in some decent performances, Derby have been gone without a clean sheet for nine consecutive games in the Championship and the club’s links with a new shot-stopper in January doesn’t really come as a big surprise.
Kelle Roos, who played a key role in the Rams’ march to the play-off final last season, started the ongoing campaign as the first-choice following the departure of Scott Carson on loan to Man City.
However, as time went by, it became more and more evident that the Dutchman is quite poor with his decision-making when it comes to coming out of his area to claim crosses played into the box.
He also struggled to command his penalty area and establish a clear understanding with his defenders, which should be a sine-qua-non for any goalkeeper in any league across the globe.
Roos was at fault for several goals conceded by the team over the first four months before Cocu decided to give Huddersfield Town loanee Ben Hamer a crack of the whip. That change in personnel, however, hasn’t paid off for the manager, with the 32-year-old failing to keep a single clean-sheet.
If Derby’s latest 2-1 victory over Barnsley was anything to go by, Hamer was at fault for the Tykes’ only goal of the game scored by Elliot Simoes which should have been more of a routine save for any goalkeeper in the Championship.
To put things into perspective, Derby County are currently crying out for a reliable shot-stopper to stem the inflow of goals in the coming months and George Long looks more than capable of doing a job for the Rams between the sticks after proving his worth at Hull City.
The Rams need a commanding presence at the back and given that McCann hailed the 26-year-old as a leader in an interview with Hull Daily Mail back in September, Cocu should certainly look at the Sheffield-born star as a realistic option before the end of the month.
To that end, it remains to be seen whether the Tigers would be prepared to sanction a departure for their No.1 shot-stopper, who has a contract until 2021, midway through the campaign.
Long still has plenty of time remaining in his prime at the age of 26 and he would undoubtedly be a better long-term investment than someone like Begovic, who is already 33 and commands wages as per the Premier League standards.
All in all, George Long could be the ideal man to sort out the goalkeeping conundrum at Pride Park.
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