Academy Spotlight: Phillip Gigliotti

Playing professionally overseas is the dream for most young Australian footballers, but it’s a path that can throw a few curveballs.

Just ask Phillip Gigliotti.

The versatile 21 year-old made the big leap when joining second division Cypriot side Ayia Napa FC at the age of 18 on a professional contract. He was signed by former Juventus and Napoli midfielder Manuele Blasi.

Blasi – who played eight times for the Italian national team in his playing days – seemed to have a plan for Gigliotti, but that plan soon went awry.

“He (Blasi) took me under his wing and brought me there, [but] after two months he got sacked.

“A new coach came in and then (I) didn’t really play much for the rest of the season because he brought all his own youth players in.”

Not wanting to be a benchwarmer, he left the club and almost had a move to a third division Italian side lined up, but when that fell through close to deadline day, he instead signed for a fifth division Italian club.

Unfortunately he was unable to get the gametime he desired, meaning he had to return home last year without a club. He says it was a tough experience after his tribulations in Europe

“It was definitely hard because I had to build again… I was training by myself.

“It (was) kind of like ‘how much do I really want it?’, I could’ve easily said ‘stuff this, I’m just gonna work.’”

With the support of his family, he trained whilst working for the family business. He eventually earned a trial with the Wanderers NPL side, which was made permanent at the beginning of the year.

He is relishing the chance to be playing for his hometown club and to be rebuilding his confidence, which he admits took a dip in the last couple of years.

NPL NSW Men’s First Grade, Round 1, Western Sydney Wanderers FC v Sutherland Sharks FC at Wanderers Football Park on Saturday 17 February 7:00 PM

After beginning as a wing back, he has found himself playing as a winger in an NPL side that has stormed out of the gates to begin the season, winning ten of their eleven games to sit seven points clear at the top of the table.

Gigliotti has played nine of those games, two of them being starts. One of those starts came in arguably the sides gutsiest wins of the season to date against Wollongong.

With eight of their senior players out, Gigliotti put in a strong performance, helping the side to a 2-0 victory, playing the full 90 minutes and also winning a penalty.

He says he and the rest of the players that day were motivated to prove they could do the job without the senior players, and also that he was able to take a position of leadership in the team.

“We wanted to (show) we’re not only first because of them; we train together everyday in reality, so we kind of know how each player plays in our team.

“I was the oldest player on the park that game, it felt good to be that leader. Even in the second half when I was [tiring] because I hadn’t played 90 minutes (this season), it was very physically demanding.

“That was an important game where the club needed me, I think he (coach Andrew Christiansen) could have easily taken me off in the last 20-30 [minutes], but part of the reason he kept me on was for being a leader and helping the younger boys get through. Even though they’re all good players, it’s more of a mental thing, staying focused for the full 90 minutes.”

“It did feel very good to be able to do that… I want to be able to do that more often.”
He also spent some time training with the A-League Men’s side earlier in the year, and he says it served as a great motivator for him going forward.”

“It felt special because that’s what I want to do, that’s what I want to be. I was looking at players that have come from overseas as leaders like (Milos) Ninkovic, Marcelo, (Jorrit) Hendrix; they’re the boys I was looking up to, how do they prepare themselves for training? How do they train?

“I got the chance to play an internal game with them, and it was a good experience, it makes me even more hungry to get there.”