The Wellington Phoenix are excited to announce the signing of Italian midfielder Nicholas Pennington to a two-year deal.
I’ve talked to a few players I’ve met with the [Australian] national team and they said Wellington is a very good club, well organised and they have a focus on playing young players; so for me it’s just a great opportunity so I’m excited.
Born in Rome but of Australian descent through his father, Pennington joins the Club from Olbia Calcio 1905 in Serie C, the third-highest division of the Italian Football League.
Pennington began his football career with Serie A club Cagliari in the youth league, before being loaned to Olbia in 2017. At the end of the loan period, Olbia were impressed with Pennington’s performances and signed him outright. In 176 total appearances across these competitions, Pennington registered 15 goals and 15 assists.
In 2019 Pennington has also featured in the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens – a 16-team, international 7-a-side football youth tournament held in Hong Kong – captaining his Cagliari Calcio side against the likes of Aston Villa, Newcastle United and West Ham United. Cagliari finished third overall in the tournament, with Pennington scoring the opening goal in their final match versus Glasgow Rangers.
Despite having an Australian passport thanks to his father – who hails from Perth – Pennington has never lived in Australia. He has spoken for years of his ambition to play for the Socceroos, a dream Pennington was able to realise this year when he was named to the Australia U23’s preliminary squad in June. At the squad’s Marbella Training Camp held in Spain June 2021, Pennington came off the bench versus Romania to play alongside fellow A-League players Nicholas D’Agostino, Connor O’Toole and Ramy Najjarine.
Wellington Phoenix Coach Ufuk Talay, who has spent much of his off-season scouting players from around the world – including Australia and New Zealand players who are currently overseas – says that Pennington is an exciting addition for the Club.
“I’m excited to see what Nicholas brings to the table; I’ve watched him play in Italy’s Serie C – which is a tough and competitive football league – and he’s a young but seasoned talent who I think will adjust well to the A-League,” says Talay.
“I rate his consistency and the fact he’s a hard-working, box-to-box player who gives his all every match; he plays as a 6 so he’ll give us depth in that position and he’ll have every opportunity to play to his strengths.
“When I last spoke to him he was very excited for a new challenge.”
Pennington says that he is looking forward to the experience of coming to Australia for the first time and joining a competitive Phoenix side.
“I’m really excited and happy to be joining the Phoenix, I think it’s going to be a really good experience for me; I’ll be on the opposite side of the world which is good – a completely different experience for me and I’ll be playing in a top league. So I’m looking forward to it.”
“I’m a midfielder and I run a lot, I like helping out the defence in the back at the same time – I’ll do my best to help the Phoenix, hopefully score some goals and just give my best.
Pennington says that his decision to come to Wellington and the A-League came – in part – from conversations with Coach Talay about his role with the Phoenix and what to expect next season.
“I’ve talked to Ufuk and it was really nice, he’s been great throughout this process and he’s made a really good impression to me as a coach.
“And I’ve talked to a few players I’ve met with the [Australian] national team and they said Wellington is a very good club, well organised and they have a focus on playing young players; so for me it’s just a great opportunity so I’m excited.
“And the fans, it looks like quite a fanbase which is nice, and I saw [online] the stadium for the last game the Club played in Wellington and it was a [packed] stadium which was good to see.”
Pennington says that although he expects there to be an adjustment in playing styles from the Italian Football League to the A-League, he hopes the experience will be made easier thanks to a few familiar faces being in the Nix squad; having previously met Alex Rufer at the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens in 2019 and played against Reno Piscopo in Italy.
“I’ve never been to New Zealand or Australia before, and I haven’t watched that many A-League matches but I know it’s a very good technical league with very intense games; it’s a hard league and it’s going to be a challenge for me to adapt technically from the style of play in Italy but I’m sure I can do well.
“The preparation you get in Italy is great because of the coaches and facilities, I got good training and we competed in high-level leagues so the environment was very good for me to grow as a footballer – I played over 100 matches as a professional and it made me improve every year, going through the Academy setup and then playing for Olbia.
“I’ve played against Reno [Piscopo] during my whole youth career, when we played Renate and we played Inter Milan, we would play against each other every year because we’re from the same age group – so yeah I remember Reno well.”
Pennington, who will wear number 13 for the Phoenix, is expected to travel to New Zealand at a later date to join his teammates in Wellington for the pre-season.