Credit: Lincoln City Football Club
Credit: Lincoln City Football Club

I had the honour of speaking to Imps goalkeeper Sam Long, who recently made his professional debut for the club against Manchester United U21’s in the EFL Trophy. 

We talked about his development, working with Michael Appleton and his debut. 

“I found out [about making his debut] the Friday before, I was told by Steve [Croudson] and I was really looking forward to it. I was delighted and it was really exciting for me. Doing a year on the bench, sometimes you can get a bit comfortable, I just felt that it was a long time to wait but it was worth it. I was patient and got the opportunity. Yes [the first year matured me] the experience around the dressing room really helped me out, being around the first team environment and with senior pros, also gave me an understanding of what the manager wants and how the team works. When I went into my first game, I knew what was needed from me and what I had to do.”

We moved onto working with other goalkeepers and how that has helped Sam over the last year. 

“Palms [Alex Palmer] especially, he was a little bit older than me, but he helped me with a lot of things on and off the pitch and in a way the things he did, you sometimes admire, I don’t want to blow his trumpet too much, but he really helped me out and I’m glad to see him doing well now. Josh is different because he is a similar age to me, but he’s played a lot of games last year and has got callups to England, so there are obviously things I can learn from him. There are definitely people around me, who can help me out in that respect”

We spoke about how it is for Sam in a senior dressing room around the likes of Liam Bridcutt and how he has settled into that environment, we also discussed Michael Appleton.

“It’s the first, first team dressing room I’ve been in and I think I’ve been quite lucky to have players in the dressing room that we have because they are all really supportive and welcoming, when I first grew through the ranks and moved into the dressing room they were really good for me, they push me as well, and also have a bit of banter, it’s all helping my development.

“The gaffer has been really good, in the way that I know what he wants from a keeper, the season last year really helped me understand what he wants me to do, so when I do play, I know I need to do certain things with the ball, I have to play out and be decisive. When he gives me the opportunity, I’m grateful and delighted but at the same time I’ve got a job to do.”

We moved onto talking about having an experienced backline and how much it helps the goalkeeper.

“It helps a lot, they know what they need from me, and also what they want me to do well and as a collective if I don’t do something right, they’ll tell me. The step up from the youth football, where someone will switch off or the decisions they make might not be as good as in the first team. That’s the real difference and that’s why they are playing at a high level.”

Credit: Lincoln City
Credit: Lincoln City

We chatted about having other academy graduates around, such as Hayden Cann, and how that has made it easier for Sam integrating into life in the first team.

“I think sometimes it can be daunting going in on your own [to the first team] as a young kid so having those boys around has helped me a lot, they have helped me push on, and I’ve tried my best to help them, I think especially living with them for the last two years, that’s really helped us bond as a group, and now we have got the honesty to tell each other what we are doing well, what we are not doing so well and what we can do better, It’s helped me and hopefully it’s helped them as well. The senior players as well have been just as good at helping.”

We moved on to speak about Sam’s first clean sheet against Bradford and how that felt for him.

“I was delighted because as a keeper, a clean sheet is what you are there for, so I was really happy not just for me, but for the rest of the team. Going forward we looked like we were playing with a purpose and the back four was solid, that’s going to help me push on and hopefully we can go upwards from here, but there is still a lot of work to do.”

As a keeper, it is important to have the right people around you and Sam spoke about working alongside Steve Croudson, and how he has helped him week in week out.

“Steve has been really good for me and as time has gone on, we have bonded more which has really helped.

“He can be brutally honest with me and that was what I needed at the time to help my development. Some days I needed that aggression to get me going, Steve has been really good building that presence that you need to be a goalkeeper at men’s level. He’s helped me with technical things, phycological things, and my relationship with Steve now is really good.”

Finally, we spoke about the atmosphere that has been created around the training ground and dressing room amongst the squad. 

“The players we have, everyone is on the same page, everyone wants each other to do well, and we want to do well as a squad. There are no selfish individuals, so I think as a squad, we are tight-knit, and I think that’ll help us this year.”

Sam is a really good lad, he has a great attitude, and seems a lot older than he is. He will be playing at a high level in a few years time, so expect some big things to come from him.

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