Nigel Adkins has denied his claim that Diego De Girolamo needs to learn “what it takes to be a professional footballer” should be interpreted as a criticism of the Sheffield United centre-forward.
Adkins issued the comment after confirming the Italy youth international had been nursing an injury an injury before marking his return to fitness with two goals during an under-21 fixture against Coventry City earlier this week.
De Girolamo had been expected to challenge for a regular place in United’s first team squad after signing a new two year contract following Adkins’ appointment during the close season but, after seeing an undisclosed complaint hamper his progress, has made just one appearance this term.
“It’s all about learning what it takes to be a professional footballer,” Adkins said. “Not just when you are playing but away from the pitch as well. It’s about eating the right foods, going to bed at the right time and giving your maximum in every single training session. That’s the kind of thing that I’m talking about because that’s what it takes to make it in the game.”
Despite explaining that he was talking in general terms, Adkins’ response to questions about De Girolamo’s absence illustrates he expects every player on Bramall Lane’s payroll to adhere to the highest possible standards in both their personal and professional lives or risk being declared unavailable for selection. Che Adams was dropped for September’s League One match against Burton Albion after breaching the 50-year-old’s disciplinary guidelines before being recalled at Port Vale four days later.
“It’s all about what some people might regard as the boring stuff,” Adkins, speaking earlier this month, said. “The stuff that means you are giving yourself the best possible chance of performing. And the top professionals, the people at the very peak of the game, do it without having to be told. They look after themselves properly because they know how important it is.”
De Girolamo, who was known to endure a difficult relationship with Adkins’ predecessor Nigel Clough, appeared destined to leave United over the summer before agreeing a new deal, which contains a further 12 month option, following June’s changing of the guard.
“Diego clearly has lots of talent,” Adkins said. “That’s why we did what we did. First, we need to get him properly fit because he’s been recovering from injury.”