Sheffield United: Diego can stake a claim

Diego De Girolamo has impressed Nigel Clough during pre-season � copyright :  BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
Diego De Girolamo has impressed Nigel Clough during pre-season � copyright : BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
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Nigel Clough, the Sheffield United manager, has revealed Diego De Girolamo will be granted an opportunity to stake his claim for a first team place after admitting a centre-forward is no longer the club’s priority in the transfer market, writes James Shield.

But Clough, who saw red tape and politics thwart United’s bid to capture Derby County’s Mason Bennett earlier this week, did confirm he would still sign the former England youngster “tomorrow” if officials at the iPro Stadium soften their stance.

Confirming that strengthening United’s defence is now top of his ‘to-do’ list following the departure of Harry Maguire to Hull City, Clough told The Star: “If we get a centre-half in and some full-back cover then we might look at a forward. But let’s see how the lads we’ve already got here will do.

“We’d still like to get Mason in and then there’s Diego whose shown flashes of what he’s capable of. If we did get Mason then he would challenge Diego to come off the bench and show the ability to change a game.”

With Michael Higdon joining fellow strikers Marc McNulty, Chris Porter and Jose Baxter at Bramall Lane after arriving from NEC Nijmegen on Monday, Clough has plenty of attacking options at his disposal ahead of the new League One campaign.

However, with Maguire completing a £2.5m move to the KC Stadium seven days ago, he is keen to strengthen a back four which has also been disrupted by John Brayford’s return to Cardiff City following a successful loan last term.

Clough was poised to recruit Kieron Freeman, another former loanee, on a permanent basis after agreeing a fee with County before the recent friendly against Huddersfield Town only for the deal to collapse due to the player’s wage demands. Clough, who spent four years in charge of the east Midlands club, then discovered that County had subsequently refused Bennett permission to sign a temporary contract with United.

Although Steve McClaren insisted his predecessor has “no” chance of recruiting the teenager, Clough confirmed: “We’ve left it with Derby. They wanted to put the two together as part of the deal.

“We would take Mason on loan tomorrow. They know that but we’ll have to wait and see what might be possible in the future or if anything changes.

“We don’t know if it will. It’s impossible for us to say but they (Derby) know what our thoughts on the matter are.”

Meanwhile, Bristol City manager Steve Cotterill, whose side visits Bramall Lane on Saturday (kick-off 12.15pm), wants to sign “three more players” before the end of the transfer window to complete his squad.

“In an ideal world, I probably want three more players,” said Cotterill. “One could come in and add to the squad, but the other two positions might be filled potentially by trading. Maybe there could be one addition (before the season starts), but I’m not sure about that at this moment in time.”

*Twitter: @JamesShield1