Lewis Italiano has extended his contract with the Wellington Phoenix to the end of the 2015-16 season and all he wants now is an injury-free season to make his claim for a first-team spot.
The 23-year-old goalkeeper this week signed a new one-year contract with the Wellington club after a frustrating injury-riddled first season that means he is still waiting for an opportunity to make his A-League debut.
That opportunity will definitely come with first-choice keeper Glen Moss certain to be away with the New Zealand national team 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 Phoenix Italiano suffered a severe ankle that saw 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 take what should have been his spot.
Another chance would come when Moss was again away on international duty but by then Italiano had sustained a wrist injury during training and was again sidelined.
“Yeh, it was really frustrating,” the laid-back keeper says.
“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.”
With Moss in outstanding form last season did Italiano think about looking for a new club before signing his new contract?
“No I didn’t because I am happy in Wellington, my partner Tiffani has joined me, and I didn’t want to be known as someone who jumps clubs,” he said.
“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.
Now he hopes he will get more chances to show them what he can do week in week out.