SHEFFIELD United coach Chris Morgan is convinced opponents will adopt “strong-arm” tactics to try and stifle Diego De Girolamo’s creative instincts.
At the tender age of 17, the prodigiously talented striker has already made three first-team appearances. Indeed, Chesterfield-born De Girolamo came off the bench to make his Football League debut in the 3-0 victory over Colchester United last month, creating the third and final goal for Dave Kitson. De Girolamo was also given a late run-out in the goalless draw with Leyton Orient at Bramall Lane last week and has featured in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
Ten days ago, the Italian Under-18 international’s skilful play and neat close control stood out in the Steel City derby in the Development League and he bagged a penalty in the entertaining 2-2 draw.
But Morgan has warned De Girolamo, who qualifies to play for Italy through his father who was born in Naples, to expect defenders to look to leave their mark on him.
“Diego has got a lot of the game to work on but he’s got so much natural ability,” he told The Star. “When he receives the ball, he immediately tries to put defenders on the back foot. He does it naturally and so quickly.
“When you get someone on the pitch who is the stand out player, the only way to stop them from playing is through strong-arm tactics.
“Diego will have to get used to sides trying to whack him left, right and centre. You just hope at the professional level that you get referees who recognise that and will deal with the situation.
“Diego has got to learn and get used to getting lumps and lumps kicked out of him. He has got to accept that people will try and stop him from playing but I know he will.”
It was last July that Morgan officially hung up his boots after failing to recover from a cruciate knee ligament injury. Now the former United centre-back works closely with the first-team and reserves at Shirecliffe, assisting and learning from United manager Danny Wilson and his assistant Frank Barlow.
“I am enjoying it,” he said. “There are times when I have to pinch myself because I have not missed playing. I love coaching as much as the playing side.”
“It is great to be heavily involved with the first-team and trying to help the young lads take the next step,” he added.
United’s U21s side, featuring Marcus Williams and Joe Ironside, slipped to a 2-0 loss at Derby County yesterday.