Jose Baxter believes Diego De Girolamo can become a star of the future at Sheffield United providing he takes Nigel Clough’s advice.
Baxter issued the warning after watching the Italy youth international score his first senior goal for the League One club during Saturday’s FA Cup tie against Preston North End.
United, who unveiled former Cardiff City defender John Brayford as their third signing of the January transfer window before kick-off, opened contract talks with De Girolamo last month after Clough confirmed he wants to retain the teenager’s services despite using him sparingly in recent weeks.
And Baxter, urging De Girolamo to accept the manager’s ‘tough love’ approach, said: “The gaffer has been on at Diego, telling him’ if you want to play up front just get in the six-yard box and you’ll score goals.’ That’s what he did. “I thought his all round play was good, he held it up well and put a great shift in for the team. He’s just got to build from there.
“He can’t get disappointed. He’s had a good game. He can’t just go into the next game expecting to play.”
Baxter, the former Everton and Oldham Athletic midfielder, was a member of the United side which reached the semi-finals of the competition last season.
“As a youngster you’re in and out of the team,” he added. “You’re used when the manager wants to use you and it’s not every game you’re going to play.
“When his chance comes, he’s just got to do what he did today. As a youngster there are always senior lads who are going to play ahead of you and you’ve just got to deal with it. It can only benefit him playing well today.”
Brayford, who is understood to have commanded a £1.5m fee after leaving south Wales, put pen to paper on a three-and-a-half year contract before De Girolamo’s second-half finish ensured the fourth round contest at Deepdale ended all-square.
United host Tottenham Hotspur in the second leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final on Wednesday evening and with the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Southampton all failing to qualify for this evening’s fifth round draw, Baxter said: “We were just having a laugh in the changing room saying we’ve got to be favourites now after a few have gone out. There are still some great teams in there though and that’s what the cup is all about, the underdogs beating the big boys.
“We just wanted to be in the hat for the next round. We want to go far in the FA Cup, it means a lot to us.
“We went a long way last year. The young lads showed great character, they want the ball and got stuck in. They’re good lads. That’s why the manager’s played them and they repaid him.”