The Wellington Phoenix have looked within to replace the most successful coach in the club’s 16-year history.
Ufuk Talay’s right-hand man Giancarlo Italiano has been appointed head coach of the Phoenix men for the next two Isuzu UTE A-League seasons.
Italiano, known throughout the club as ‘Chiefy’, has served as Talay’s lead assistant coach for the past three years, having originally joined the Nix for the 2019-20 season as the team’s head analyst and second assistant.
“I’ve learnt so much under Uffy,” he said. “I believe he is the best coach in the A-League, and I’ve had valuable lessons I don’t believe I would have got with other coaches.
“I’ve also been fortunate to see Graham Arnold work at Sydney FC, followed by his successor Steve Corica.
“Along the way I’ve seen how team environments are created and the inner workings of successful clubs.
“That experience fused with the time I’ve had with Uffy has really given me the confidence I can do well in this job.
“It’s unlike when we both came in four years ago and it was almost a clean slate, and we started a new playing style and a new philosophy.
“I’m going to build on the playing style that Uffy has put in, but with my own new ideas. I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”
Italiano will become just the sixth fulltime head coach of the Phoenix men, although he has already taken the reins for a couple of A-League matches.
He stepped in last season when Talay was forced to isolate due to Covid-19 and he guided Wellington to wins over Perth Glory and Brisbane Roar in the space of five days.
A self-described “nobody”, Giancarlo Italiano, unlike most A-League coaches, is not a former professional footballer.
Italiano gathered extensive coaching experience at the grassroots level in New South Wales before joining Sydney FC in 2017 to work with their NPL and National Youth League teams.
“I don’t have the luxury of being an ex-player at an elite level.
“I’ve always had to over compensate with my knowledge of the game, my processes and thinking outside the box to make up that shortfall, whereas ex-players have the advantage of knowing the environment already.
“I think that’s benefitted me because I don’t take anything for granted, I make sure that I’m thorough in all my work and I always make sure my work ethic is high.
“I’m really grateful to Uffy, chairman Rob Morrison and the board for giving me the opportunity and believing in me.”
Morrison believes Italiano is the ideal coach to succeed Ufuk Talay.
“Chiefy has been an integral member of our coaching staff for the past four years and has served a great apprenticeship under Uffy,” Morrison said.
“He has helped unearth a number of players who have gone on to become Phoenix fan favourites, and together they have developed a style of play that has the team on track for a third finals appearance in four seasons.
“We want to develop coaches in the same way we develop players and it’s significant that we didn’t need to look outside the club to replace Uffy. We were more than comfortable with the talent available within the club.”
Italiano recently completed the AFC professional coaching diploma, run by Football Australia, and is now one of a select few coaches in Aotearoa with a pro licence.
There are currently three coaches at the Phoenix with the highest qualification in football and three other Nix coaches are in the process of obtaining their pro licences.
“New Zealand currently isn’t developing enough top quality coaches, so the Phoenix are looking to fill that void by investing in coaches as well as the next generation of players,” Morrison said.