The Wellington Phoenix have kept hold of a key member of the men’s engine room.
The Phoenix have re-signed Australian midfielder Nicholas Pennington for the 2023-24 Isuzu UTE A-League season.
Pennington, 24, has made 44 appearances for the club over the past two years, having joined the Nix in 2021 from Olbia Calcio 1905 in Italy’s Serie C.
“I’m really excited and really happy to sign on for another year,” Pennington said. “I enjoy living in Wellington and playing in front of the Phoenix fans, so it was quite an easy decision to re-sign.
“I’ve spoken to Chiefy (new head coach Giancarlo Italiano) a lot in the last couple of weeks and I understood that he really wanted me to be a big part of the team.
“I will hopefully play a lot more next season. I felt I deserved more game time this year.”
He has started just five matches for the Phoenix in the past 12 months, three of which came in pre-season, in the Australia Cup.
It is in stark contrast to Pennington’s first season with the Nix when he was in the starting XI on 17 occasions, including the A-League elimination final, and played a key role in the team’s run to the semi-finals of the Cup.
“In my first season I played a much bigger part in the team making the playoffs and I had a good run of games at the back end of the year.
“I felt this season I could have given a lot more than I ended up giving to the team. I’m very excited to start again under Chiefy.”
Italiano says it was a “no brainer” to re-sign Pennington.
“Nico has all of the qualities we’re looking for to move the team forward.
“He’s young, he’s a great defensive midfielder and is technically very good.
“He has the ability to score goals as well. I think that is one part of his game we really can accelerate.
“What he needs is regular game time to hit the potential that he has, and I can give him that opportunity.
“Because of the quality of the sixes we had last season it was definitely a tougher season for him, but if he can take the experience of this year, fuse it with how well he played last year, I think the potential for him is immense.”
Nicholas Pennington will vie with club captain Alex Rufer and new signing Mohamed Al-Taay for a place in the starting XI, with a fourth defensive midfielder potentially coming from the Phoenix academy.
“All three have characteristics which complement each other, but they’re all hard working sixes.
“I’m really looking forward to the season to see what all three can do.”
The Wellington Phoenix now have 14 players contracted for the 2023-24 Isuzu UTE A-League season.