SHEFFIELD United manager Danny Wilson has backed his Bramall Lane babes to shine as his side continue their push for promotion from League One.
Wilson, who saw his side tumble out of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at Coventry City on Tuesday after their third penalty shoot-out defeat in 13 months, made the claim after seeing 18-year-old winger Callum McFadzean make his first start in United colours.
Fellow teenagers Joe Ironside and Diego DeGirolamo also impressed after coming on as substitutes, while 21-year-old Jordan Chapell also featured after being recalled from his loan spell at Burton Albion.
“I am disappointed in the manner of the Coventry defeat; we seem to get a mental block when it comes to a penalty shootout,” Wilson said.
“But the second half performance was very encouraging and we take heart from being able to give of the young lads the experience against a strong Coventry side.
“The youngsters have given us great hope for the future. It was a big game for them, hopefully the first of many down the line.
“Callum did very well but tired, as you would expect; Jordan returned from Burton and looked sharp, whilst Joe and Diego gave a good account of themselves.”
Wilson is particularly enthused about DeGirolamo, who recently signed a three-year professional contract at United despite reported interest from Manchester City, Chelsea and AC Milan.
DeGirolamo, who was born in Chesterfield, has an Italian father who played for Napoli.
The 17-year-old has been a member of United’s Shirecliffe youth academy for ten years and Wilson said: “Diego is one I believe has got a real chance if his continues his development.
“He has trained with the first team for the last couple of weeks and the lads know what he can do.
“The whole experience of having a pre-match meal and spending time with the lads is new to him, but he is a very confident young lad.”
DeGirolamo replaced John Cofie with 18 minutes left of Tuesday’s game - but despite his tender age of 17 years and 61 days, couldn’t quite become the youngest competitive debutant in United’s history.
That honour belongs to Trenton Wiggan, who made his United bow in the League Cup at just 16 years and 328 days old but Wilson said: “The biggest thing was getting him on the pitch.
“No matter what happened I wanted to get him on, because I wanted to have a proper look at him against an experienced League One side.
“I would have no qualms about using him or some of the others in the league.
“If you are good enough, you will get a chance.”
Wilson admitted that he was forced to recall Chapell (pictured right) from his temporary spell at Burton’s Pirelli Stadium because he fears his squad will not cope with the demanding fixture list over the Christmas period.
“The squad is so thin here, we needed Jordan to return,” Wilson said.
“And with the programme we have coming up I didn’t want to play certain people at Coventry, but circumstances meant I had to.
“We don’t want to lose key players at important times. Jordan offers us versatility in the wide areas and he will be an important player to us.
“Now our priority is the league, and aside from the FA Cup we can now concentrate on our league fixtures.”
United’s third game of seven this month is on Saturday, when they travel to Carlisle.
The following Saturday, United - currently fourth in the League One table - entertain league leaders Tranmere Rovers at Bramall Lane.
Games against Crawley Town, Scunthorpe United and Hartlepool make up a busy festive fixture list for Wilson’s men.
Wilson revealed that centre half Neill Collins may be available for the trip to Carlisle after recovering from an illness.
“But I wouldn’t be too optimistic over Dave Kitson and Tony McMahon,” the United chief added.
United’s Lecsinel Jean-François, meanwhile, has revealed on Twitter that he has returned to full training after suffering another knee injury.
“I’m on the way back to good form,” the defender tweeted.
Follow Danny on Twitter: @dannyhall04.