Football: Wellington Phoenix promote assistant Giancarlo Italiano to replace outgoing Ufuk Talay as head coach

Wellington Phoenix have promoted Giancarlo Italiano to head coach on a two-year deal, replacing outgoing Ufuk Talay.

Italiano, 40, has been with the club since 2019 as an assistant coach and analyst to Talay, but will take the reins next season, after recently acquiring his coaching pro-licence.

Affectionately known as 'Chiefy', Italiano has filled in for Talay in the past, coaching the Phoenix to back-to-back victories in two games in charge, defeating Perth Glory 2-1 and Brisbane Roar 3-0 in March 2022.

"I've learnt so much under Uffy," said Italiano. "I believe he is the best coach in the A-League and I've had valuable lessons I don't believe I would have got with other coaches.

"That experience, fused with the time I've had with Uffy, has really given me the confidence I can do well in this job.

"It's unlike when we both came in four years ago and it was almost a clean slate, and we started a new playing style and a new philosophy. 

"I'm going to build on the playing style that Uffy has put in, but with my own new ideas. I'm really looking forward to the challenge."

Italiano will face a tough rebuilding task before the new A-League season.

Talay has been the most successful coach in Phoenix history, with a 41 percent winning record since taking over.

Italiano will also have to oversee a roster rebuild, with the Phoenix losing All Whites duo Clayton Lewis and Oli Sail, as well as Australian midfielder Steven Ugarkovic, but Phoenix management has confidence Italiano can continue Talay's work. 

"Chiefy has been an integral member of our coaching staff for the past four years and has served a great apprenticeship under Uffy," said chairman Rob Morrison.

"He has helped unearth a number of players who have gone on to become Phoenix fan favourites and together, they have developed a style of play that has the team on track for a third finals appearance in four seasons."

Before taking charge of the Phoenix, Italiano and the club hope to finish the current A-League season on a high. Currently fifth on the A-League ladder, the Phoenix need to win at least one of their final two regular season matches to all but secure a place in the playoffs.

The Phoenix face Western Sydney Wanderers on Friday and Macarthur FC on April 29 - both away from home - to end the regular season.