Manager Nigel Clough has admitted that Italian starlet Diego De Girolamo may start for Sheffield United in their Johnstone’s Paint Trophy clash against Walsall tomorrow evening.
And the Bramall Lane boss has challenged the 19-year-old, who scored three times in four outings on loan at York City, to follow the lead of fellow teenager Louis Reed and force his way into the senior set-up in South Yorkshire.
De Girolamo returned to Bramall Lane after his initial one-month youth loan deal at Bootham Crescent expired, and Minstermen boss Russ Wilcox is keen for the Chesterfield-born Italian youth international to return.
But Clough, who has resurrected his interest in Brighton and Hove Albion striker Chris O’Grady after revealing that his pursuit of Blackpool’s Steve Davies has broken down, said: “The search goes on for a striker, and we’re still interested in two. Plus, you can never say never and we might revisit the situation with Steve in January.
“Right now, we’ve got Diego, Jose Baxter, little Jam [Jamal Campbell-Ryce] had a run up front against Crewe, as did Jamie Murphy, and we’ve got Chris Porter and Michael Higdon. So we have enough players to fill the position, but we need sufficient quality.”
De Girolamo was introduced as a 69th-minute substitute as United drew 0-0 with Crewe on Saturday in the FA Cup, setting up a replay at Bramall Lane a week today.
“He might start tomorrow evening - we don’t want to fall foul of the rules again,” added Clough, whose side were fined “the maximum amount” for breaching competition rules after their 2-1 win at Hartlepool in the previous round of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
“So we’ll mix and match it, but Diego’s got a chance. He did OK when he came on at Crewe - he’s been scoring at York and is full of confidence, and he nearly won it for us when he put one inches wide.
“He’s got to improve on a few things but it was nice to get him out there.”
“We’ll only loan him out again if he’s not involved,” Clough, who handed Will Hughes his professional debut aged 16 during his time at Derby County, added.
“It’s important to give young players opportunities.
“We want to bring loan players in and we all want to win games, but we’ve also got to be fair to the youngsters and they’ll never improve if we don’t give them the chance.
“Look at Louis - he was excellent again at Crewe, at 17. We put him in the team at the end of last season [against Rotherham United] and now he’s played 12 senior games for us - which he wouldn’t have played if we didn’t give him that early chance.”
Clough, meanwhile, has turned his attentions back to O’Grady after Blackpool performed a dramatic U-turn, after agreeing to send Davies to Bramall Lane on loan.
The United chief worked with Davies at Derby and, as The Star revealed earlier this year, had a £200,000 permanent bid for his services turned down by Blackpool on transfer deadline day. O’Grady, formerly of Rotherham and Sheffied Wednesday, was a United target in the summer, before he elected to join Brighton from Barnsley.