Ernie Merrick has only seen Lewis Italiano play once, yet the Phoenix coach is confident that signing the young goalkeeper is no punt.
The 22-year-old former Perth back-up has signed a one-year deal and is Merrick's first recruit after shedding six players.
He relied on his spies in the Victorian Premier League, and a reference from Phoenix goalkeeping coach Jonathan Gould, who worked with Italiano in Perth.
"In a perfect world I would have watched him a lot more but Jonathan Gould has a great record as a player and coach," Merrick said.
"According to most reports he's the most consistent goalkeeper in that league."
The 1.89m Italiano will continue playing for Oakleigh Cannons before joining the Phoenix on September 1.
He is yet to play an A-League game and will be Glen Moss's back-up.
But with Moss expected to be with the All Whites on October 13, Italiano is in line to start the season opener against Brisbane.
"We needed a ready to go type of goalkeeper but someone that's also young that can develop with the team," Merrick said.
Italiano got the nod ahead of New Zealand age-group star Scott Basalaj, who is in Turkey preparing for the under-20 World Cup.
Merrick hoped Basalaj would remain at the club's school of excellence.
"Scott is very much in our plans as well. He's got a good future ahead of him."
Merrick had a good run with keepers at Melbourne Victory.
Michael Theoklitos and Eugene Galekovic were both strong performers while Mitch Langerak was plucked from Bundaberg and now sits on the bench for Champions League finalists Borussia Dortmund.
Italiano said he was rapt to get another A-League opportunity after the disappointment of being released by Perth in April.
The Phoenix made contact about a week ago and: "it's happened just like that, a flick of the light switch. I pretty much signed the contract straight away."
Italiano had also been seeking information on Wellington from team-mate Michael Boxall, who is at Oakleigh on loan from the Phoenix.
"He said 'it's lovely, a great club', so I'm looking forward to sunny Wellington," Italiano quipped.
"Being released from Perth was a bit upsetting but that's football for you. When Wellington called it was a cool surprise. Gouldy is a great guy and we work well together."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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