Goalkeeper Lewis Italiano, 22, has been handed a one-year deal by the Wellington Phoenix - Ernie Merrick's first signing for his new club
New Wellington Phoenix Ernie Merrick has made his first signing, landing promising goalkeeper Lewis Italiano on a one-year deal.
Having been released from Perth Glory at the end of the 2012-13 A-League season, Italiano has since been playing for Victorian Premier League club Oakleigh Cannons.
The 22-year-old will arrive at the Wellington Phoenix on September 1, and is likely to play back-up to Glen Moss after the retirement of Mark Paston.
"I want him to play as many games as possible at a good level to get him ready as he will probably be in goal for our opening game against Brisbane Roar, with Glen Moss likely to be called up for international duty [with New Zealand]," Merrick said via club statement.
"Because of the situation the Phoenix is in regarding the number of national team players in the squad, it is vital that we have two good keepers, with World Cup qualifying games coming up.
"He has had a very good season in the VPL."
Italiano was recommended by Phoenix goalkeeping coach and former Perth assistant Jonathon Gould: "I've had several reports saying he is the best goalkeeper in the [National Youth] league," Merrick said.
"Also our goalkeeping coach Jonathan Gould worked with him for a season at Perth and knows his character, ability and potential."