Sheffield United prodigy Diego De Girolamo is hoping to be back in the Blades reckoning come FA Cup third-round weekend.
If Nigel Clough’s side are to feature come early January, when Premier League clubs enter the knockout competition, they face a tricky test tomorrow away to Conference side Cambridge United.
The 18-year-old Italian forward has been sidelined for over eight months with a serious knee injury, along with striker Shaun Miller.
He only started full training this week – alongside former Blades defender Lecsinel Jean-Francois who is back training at their Shirecliffe training ground following injury – but Clough will not rush him back ahead of a busy Christmas schedule.
“Diego (De Girolamo) started training at the beginning of the week and came through his first session on Tuesday,” he said.
“He goes to college on a Wednesday, so physically that gave him a rest and he was back involved on Thursday morning with the rest of the lads.
“We are still in the early stages, but the signs are encouraging, it will be a big boost for him personally to be back involved with the group.
“He needs a few weeks training before we think about getting him involved in game situations after Christmas, but hopefully he will hit the ground running.”
The Blades are helping out Jean-Francois’s rehabilitation from a knee injury and could play in a friendly at Mansfield Town next week.
Clough admits the Blades squad were “shell-shocked” when he first arrived at the club, following David Weir’s sacking.
But the former Derby County boss has helped stabilise the club and results are improving.
“The lads were a bit shell-shocked when we arrived and that is to be expected after a testing first two or three months to a season,” added Clough.
“Being at the wrong end of the table has a negative effect within the dressing room and we are slowly trying to build that belief back up, thankfully it seems to be becoming more evident of late.”
Former Motherwell winger Jamie Murphy is pushing for a recall after impressing as a substitute in recent games.
“We are trying to get a settled core of the team in place and those currently in the team are now in possession of the shirts,” said Clough.
“We are still looking at one or two on the outside that though.
“Jamie (Murphy) is one who has impressed us recently, both in training and when coming off the bench.
“Jamie was quiet in the first week or so when we arrived, but he did well against Walsall and he showed positive intent at Orient,” he said.
Right-back Tony McMahon is out through suspension.