Alan Biggs at Large: Diego just needs a little love at Sheffield United

Diego De Girolamo

Diego De Girolamo

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Diego Raymond De Girolamo. Now there’s a name. And maybe we are looking in the wrong place. It’s the bits either side of plain old “Raymond” that partly explain why this young player has had publicity far outweighing his deeds on a football field – so far.

Now Sheffield United are seeking some middle ground in the development of this undoubted talent. And academy boss Nick Cox believes they will find it.

This column apart, Cox feels the much-touted teenager can finally fly “under the radar” to a genuine first team breakthrough after fleeting appearances that have left a mystery in their wake.

All Blades fans know the name (apart from the middle one maybe) but are yet to see why England and Italy fought a tug-of-war for his services before De Girolamo chose the land of his Naples-born father in representing the Azzurri at Under 18, 19 and 20 level.

“At 15 Diego was linked with Manchester United and there’s been a lot of pressure on him,” says Cox, hoping the attacking midfielder or forward with the exotic name can flourish from the clean slate offered by new Blades boss Nigel Adkins.

“His background shows he has to be a bit special. At Bramall Lane he hasn’t proved his worth yet but I think he will. What he needs is a bit of help and love. Diego has been under a huge weight of expectation and maybe some of that expectation has not been realistic.

“That’s been lowered now. He’s under the radar a bit and that will help.”

De Girolamo, 19, had been set to leave the Lane after loans at York and Northampton. Now the way is wide open again. “We hope to get him back on track,”

Cox tells me. “Diego loves his football and, as a really talented boy, just wants to play for Sheffield United.”

n “We only ever disagreed on one thing and that was the professionalisation of referees.” This is Keith Hackett talking about Brian Bradley, the one-time local referee who became

South Yorkshire’s “Mr. non-league football” and who tragically died last week in a car accident that also claimed his beloved wife Judith.

And here’s the main point. “You’d always listen because everyone respected Brian, a great guy,” says Hackett, Sheffield’s former referee boss.

Ex World Cup official Glenn Turner has also been in touch, saying: “Brian got me through my referee exams.”

This column has fielded tributes from too many to mention, including former Radio Sheffield sports producer Bob Jackson and ex non-league manager Steve Toyne who said: “Wherever you were, rain or shine, you’d see Brian. There’d be this familiar tap on the shoulder and a ‘come on Steve, who are you watching then?’”

Keep watching over us, Brian!

A joint funeral for Brian and Judith will be held on Wednesday July 22 at 12 noon Sheffield Cathedral. This will be followed by a wake in the Platinum Suite at Bramall Lane.

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