Long time understudy Lewis Italiano has re-signed with Wellington Phoenix and beenhanded the No.1 jersey for season 2017/18.
Those performances coupled with a series of good showings in the Victorian NPL with FC Bulleen Lions convinced new head coach Darije Kalezić that Italiano deserved his chance as the first-choice goalkeeper.
For Italiano, the re-signing comes both with relief, and excitement.
“Look, it’s a dream. It’s what I want – to play first-team football,” said Italiano.
“Obviously there was a bit of uncertainty at the end of last season, but staff at the club were constantly in touch, telling me they thought I was ready to step up, and that if I knuckled down over the off-season then there could be an opportunity (to re-sign).”
“We’re from Perth so wouldn’t mind a bit more sun, but my fiancé and I have really loved our time in Wellington and built a home here – it’s a great city, and a good club environment, so with the new coaches coming in a lot of us younger guys are really keen to reward the faith shown in us.”
Since the A-League season concluded Italiano sought a short-term deal in NPL Victoria to get all-important game-time under his belt, impressing many during his time at FC Bulleen Lions, with his most recent performance seeing him named in the NPL Victoria team of the week.
For General Manager David Dome, Italiano’s re-signing is just one part of a much larger puzzle as new coaches Kalezić and Rado Vidošić rebuild the squad.
“(The new coaches) have impressed on us how important character – things like desire and loyalty – are to the squad they are assembling. We don’t want people coming here just for a paycheck, we want players who want to prove themselves, who want to fight for the fans, the city, and the country.”
Italiano will re-join the Phoenix squad 1 July, giving the shot-stopper four more NPL games to aid his preparation for the next A-League campaign.