Sheffield United's George Long has been awarded the npower Football League Young Player of the Month Award for February.

After starting his career in the Sheffield United youth academy, Long has made significant progress and became the youngest goalkeeper to play for the Blades when he made his debut aged 17 against Swansea City in 2011.

After making just three first-team appearances last season, Long has staked his claim as the Blades' first-choice keeper following a number of stand-out performances.

February was undoubtedly one of the highlights of Long's short career, conceding just three goals in six npower League 1 games, including a string of fine saves and a man of the match performance in the 0-0 home draw with Leyton Orient.

Long played a vital role during a month in which Sheffield United won four games, keeping them firmly in the hunt for an automatic promotion spot.

On winning the award, Long said: "I would not have believed if someone had asked me in pre-season that I would have played so many games but once I got there I had to take it in my stride and keep the consistency levels up.

"My ambition this season is to get promotion - I want to get that first before talking about anything else."

Sheffield United manager Danny Wilson added: "George has been brilliant and his temperament unquestionable. He's learning every game and goalkeeping coach Darren Ward has worked hard with him.

"He's not the finished article, and has lots of areas to improve but his shot stopping is up there with anyone in the country."

Each season, Football League clubs invest more than £40m on identifying, training and educating the next generation of football talent. Around a third of this money (£12.6m) is provided by the Football Association and Premier League.

There are 8,700 young players registered with League clubs making Football League Youth Development the largest centrally co-ordinated young player programme in world football. In the 2012/13 season to date, 217 players aged 21 or under have made their professional debuts for Football League clubs.

David Wetherall, Head of Youth Development at The Football League, said: "At just 19 years of age, George has already made a huge contribution to his club.

"Having become the youngest ever goalkeeper to make an appearance for the Blades, he has certainly taken his chance when called upon this season, which has resulted in him making the number one spot his own. He certainly has a bright future ahead of him and I look forward to keeping an eye on his progression."

Each month the accolade will be awarded by The Football League to the young player who has made the most significant contribution and impact in first team football. To be eligible the player must be either under 21 years of age or be playing in the season during which he turns 21. Currently a third of the players registered with Football League clubs meet that criterion.

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