Sheffield United: Blades back kids’ international calls

Diego De Girolamo
Diego De Girolamo
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Sheffield United will continue encouraging their young stars to taste international football, academy manager Nick Cox has confirmed, despite the growing number of withdrawals from youth competitions.

The League One club, responsible for producing England defenders Phil Jagielka and Kyle Walker, have seen the likes of Diego De Girolamo and Connor Dimaio capped by their respective countries in recent weeks after impressing at domestic level.

Although several national associations have expressed concerns about some clubs asking players to scale back their committments, Cox told The Star: “Kids, when they make their first-team debuts, must have been in as many different situations as possible, and playing for their country can often show them things that we can’t.

“Like, for example, playing against a great Dutch team which might keep the ball for half an hour at a time or a different system and style of play they might not be exposed to here.

“These are obviously talented lads but it’s important to stretch talent, to put it under pressure and see how it reacts.

“I don’t think 10,000 hours of practice is the key. I prefer to think it’s 10,000 experiences.”

De Girolamo, who has previously represented Italy at under-18 level, was earlier this month granted permission by Nigel Clough to attend a four team tournament U-20s tournament involving Germany, Poland and Switzerland.

Dimaio and his United colleague, Joel Coustrain, caught the eye of Eire selectors ahead of their U-19 fixtures against the Netherlands while Jamie McDonagh and Shea Gordon have been working with Northern Ireland at U-19 and U-17 level.

Ioan Evans, United’s Professional Development League captain, was initially placed on standby for Wales’ visit to Montenegro last week.

Cox said: “Wherever possible, we will be sending representatives to watch them play. It’s important they see a friendly face and, also, it enables us to see them in a different environment and perhaps, as a result, identify aspects of their game that we need to work on when they come back.

“On top of that, it also underlines that we are proud of their achievement as a football club as well.”