Nigel Clough last night outlined the qualities which convinced him that Connor Dimao, Sheffield United’s teenage midfielder, can flourish at senior level, writes James Shield.
Dimaio, a Republic of Ireland youth international, hopes to make his fourth appearance for the South Yorkshire club against Port Vale later this week after impressing during Easter Monday’s draw with Tranmere Rovers.
And Clough, labelling the 18-year-old’s recent performances at Prenton Park and Crawley Town “as good as anything we’ve seen for a while,” insisted that Dimao has the potential to become the latest graduate of United’s Redtooth Academy to command a regular position in his first team squad.
“The thing which really impresses us about Connor is his range,” Clough, the United manager, told The Star. “He plays predominately as ‘a sitter’ at youth level but we don’t want to pigeon-hole him because he a really good all-rounder.
“You saw (at Tranmere) that he’s got the discipline to do that part of his job and then, from a throw-in, move to the edge of the opposition box and be a threat up there too.
“Connor is not a one-dimensional player at all. He’s still got a lot of work and improving to do yet but, perhaps the most important thing, is that he’s shown an excellent attitude and the willingness to do all of that.”
Clough has placed the Redtooth Academy at the heart of his plans to deliver Championship football to Bramall Lane at the end of next season and, after guiding United out of the relegation zone to eighth in the table, is contemplating exposing more of Dimaio’s contemporaries to the rigours of League One action during the final three matches of the campaign.
Harry Maguire, George Long and Terry Kennedy have progressed through the ranks with Otis Khan and Louis Reed also making their debuts in recent weeks. Although injury has thwarted Diego De Girolamo’s hopes of following suit, together with Dominic Calvert-Lewin, both youngsters have featured on the bench since Clough’s appointment six months ago.
With the former England centre-forward acknowledging that clawing themselves up the rankings, coupled with reaching the semi-finals of the FA Cup, has taken its toll on his squad “mentally and physically,” Clough added: “Connor was excellent, especially during the first-half, at Tranmere and he was probably one of our best players on the pitch at the start. We might, maybe, get a few more in now as well.”