Men make first off-season signing

The Wellington Phoenix have moved quickly to strengthen the men’s midfield, following the departures of Clayton Lewis and Steven Ugarkovic.

The Phoenix have signed ball-winning midfielder Mohamed Al-Taay for the next two Isuzu UTE A-League seasons.

Al-Taay, 22, has played for the Newcastle Jets for the past two years, making 30 appearances across all competitions, after being Western Sydney Wanderers’ youth player of the year in 2020.

He has all the attributes new head coach Giancarlo Italiano wants from a defensive midfielder.

“A big strength of Mo’s is he wins a lot of ball in midfield,” Italiano said. “We need aggressive sixes that will win a lot of ball and that’s irrespective of what formation we’re playing.

“He’s also a great kid and he’s a top professional. He’s a hard trainer, he always listens and takes information on board, and he’s always looking to get better.

“We can harness those skills and really support the way we play.”

He believes Al-Taay is in the same mould as a former Phoenix midfielder.

“It was a no brainer signing Mo because he’s got the same energy that Cam Devlin brought to the team a couple of years ago.

“He’s got the same attributes. Cammy won a lot of ball in the midfield, and he reminds me of Cammy quite a bit.”

It is not the first time Mohamed Al-Taay has been compared to the now Socceroos midfielder.

“A couple of the Jets boys that were at Wellington made that comparison too,” Al-Taay said.

“I take it as a compliment as Cammy’s a very good player. I do think we have similar attributes in the way that we play.

“I bring a lot of energy in the middle of the park. I like to get the best out of my teammates. I’m a ball winner, I cover a lot of space and I do all the dirty work for my defenders behind me.”

NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 30: Mohamed Al-Taay of the Jets is contested by Joshua Cavallo of Adelaide United during the round 12 A-League match between Newcastle Jets and Adelaide United at McDonald Jones Stadium, on January 30, 2022, in Newcastle, Australia. (Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

He grew up in Campbelltown in south-west Sydney and played his junior football at Blacktown City, when Italiano was the club’s head of football.

“When I got the call and found out Chiefy was the coach in Wellington I didn’t hesitate to make the move.

“I know him and he’s a very good person. He’s very ambitious and he’s got big plans.

“I’m at the point in my career where I’m hungry for more. I’ve built a good foundation at Newcastle and I’m ready for that next step at Wellington.

“I’m focussed on playing under Chiefy, learning a lot and taking my game to the next level.

“I’m going to be working hard every day and whenever I’m on the pitch I’ll give 110%.”

Mohamed Al-Taay will wear the no. 15 shirt for the Wellington Phoenix.