Goalkeeper Lewis Italiano is hoping an injury-free season will help him claim the No. 1 jersey after extending his contract with the Wellington Phoenix to the end of the 2015-16 season.
The 23-year-old inked a new one-year contract with the Kiwi club after a frustrating injury interrupted first season prevented him making his A-League debut.
With first choice custodian Glen Moss expected to miss games due to national team duty Italiano is certain to get his chance at some point during the season.
Italiano was coach Ernie Merrick’s first signing for the Phoenix but a cruel twist of fate meant he never took the field for the first team.
In his last game for Victorian Premier League side Oakleigh Cannons, before joining the A-League outfit, he suffered a severe ankle injury that kept him on crutches for three months.
It meant that when Moss was called up for the All Whites Italiano had to sit and watch replacement goalkeeper Jacob Spoonley stand between the sticks.
“It was really frustrating,” the laid-back keeper said of his injury hit season.
“I’d had a good season at Oakleigh and got the injury five minutes from the end of my last game.
“When I got over the ankle injury I damaged the tendons in my wrist and that basically finished my chances for the season.”
Despite Moss being in good form last season, Italiano said there was never any thought of seeking out another club.
“No I didn’t because I am happy in Wellington,” he said.
“My partner Tiffani has joined me, and I didn’t want to be known as someone who jumps clubs.
“I have to make sure I am fit and ready to play well when Mossy is away.
“I will be working hard to put pressure on him because that will bring out the best in both of us.”
Italiano did get a taste of first-team action when taking the field as a late substitute in the Phoenix’ 2-1 win over English Premier League side West Ham United in Auckland during pre-season.
With only a couple of minutes left Italiano made a superb diving save that will be remembered by Phoenix fans for many a day to keep his team’s one-goal advantage.comments