Phoenix coach expands on ‘imposter’ revelation and aims ‘shut up’ sledge at club’s old critics 

Watch the highlights from Wellington's dramatic win over Melbourne Victory

Giancarlo Italiano has expanded on the revelation that he has been impacted by imposter syndrome throughout his first season as Wellington Phoenix head coach, after the win that sealed the club’s very first top-two finish in the Isuzu UTE A-League.

Italiano was the focus of this week’s episode of A-Leagues All Access, titled ‘The Chief’, in which he gave viewers a look behind the curtain at his first season in charge of an A-Leagues club.

The Phoenix boss revealed that when he was first appointed as an analyst at the club in 2018-19, he didn’t fully believe he could step into the role.

After Friday night’s dramatic 1-0 win over Melbourne Victory, he said it’s a feeling that he still harbours as the club’s new head coach, despite guiding Phoenix to their best-ever points tally of 49 after 25 games, and into contention for the Premiers Plate.

The win over Victory also confirmed Wellington would finish inside the top two for the first time in Isuzu UTE A-League history.

Post-game, Italiano was asked whether the feeling of imposter syndrome had subsided at any stage throughout the 2023-24 campaign, to which he replied: “No, I think it’s a daily battle.

“It’s weird, I still look at myself like the analyst. All of this is a very surreal feeling for me. Getting in this position. I think, once I digest it in a couple of years I think I’ll realise the gravity of it but again, I still feel it every day.”

“Just reflecting now,” he added, “this is the highest amount of points the club has ever achieved, the highest position they’ve aver achieved – and I’m stoked now we’ve got the opportunity to play at home, in front of a Wellington crowd, to get to a Grand Final.”

FULL MATCH REPORT: ‘Delirium’ in Wellington as 95th-minute winner confirms ‘scarcely believable’ reality for ‘Nix

Italiano, like many coaches in the world game, has his fair share of matchday superstitions and after Friday’s win over Victory, he revealed that a pre-game trip to the driving range to work on his golf swing will now become a weekly ritual.

“This morning we had a bit of an incident with a certain player, who was potentially not going to play,” he said. “So I went to the driving range.

“Any excuse I have to go to the driving range (I’ll take). Now that we’ve won, looks like every gameday I’ll be going, playing golf.”

Italiano ended the press conference with a defiant message to Wellington’s doubters, including a nod to the past when critics of the New Zealand club questioned their place in the league through the periods in which the ‘Nix struggled for on-field success.

“I love Wellington. Wellington is beautiful – like the weather today? Perfect!” Italiano said, after taking shelter in the post-match press conference away from the sheeting rain on a gloomy night at Sky Stadium.

“I love Wellington, it’s been very good to me. The club gave me an opportunity five years ago which I wouldn’t have got at any other A-League club and I’m forever indebted. There are good people here.

“And I think the club deserves this. Especially all the, what was it – ten years ago? ‘Nix out’. I thought that was an insult to the club. I’d like now (for) the club to achieve a legacy, but it’s a nice way to shut everyone up.”

A win over Victory on Friday night sent Italiano’s Phoenix back to the top of the table, three points clear of Central Coast Mariners who have a game in hand on the New Zealand outfit.

Watch Italiano’s full post-match press conference below.