How Nicholas Pennington’s Cagliari benching turned into motivational Nix move

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Nicholas Pennington joined Wellington Phoenix at the start of last season after six years playing in Italy, but it was his two years at Cagliari and a certain benching that gave him motivation.

Pennington started his professional football career at Cagliari, whom were in the top flight of Italian football.

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He mainly played for their reserve team and made just two bench appearances in the Serie A.

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Unfortunately, that was the closest he got to first team football as he saw no action.

“Obviously I wanted to play more there, but I was very young”, he said.

“I didn’t have great expectations for that, so I just concentrated on playing for the reserves team.

“When you are just training and not playing, it’s hard because that’s what you want to do, play the games, it’s the fun part of football. You learn to cope with it and it’s always going to be hard.”

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Pennington used this as motivation to get better and try to get into the Cagliari first team, but his motivation was to be taken elsewhere, when he was loaned out to Italian third-tier side Olbia. 

Pennington found the move enjoyable, citing new experiences in the Serie C compared to reserve team football.

“I loved playing at Olbia”, he said.

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“I played a lot, but at the same time, I wanted something new, some new experiences.

“It was a big difference. Obviously you go and play with the older people who are experienced and have been playing professional football for quite a while.

“There’s a different atmosphere, but I think I got used to it pretty quickly and it was a good transition.

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Pennington’s move to Olbia was made permanent when he penned a three-year deal in 2019, before opting against renewing his contract in 2021.

“There were a few clubs that contacted me after my contract ended”, he explained.

“Just talking to these clubs, I felt like Wellington could be a great experience for me.

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“There were no other offers from any club in the A-League. There were offers from Europe, it was just my personal want to explore and get out of my comfort zone.

“I enjoy challenges and that’s why I moved over here [to New Zealand].”

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Now in his second season with the Phoenix at age 23, Pennington believes the Nix is the best environment he has been in. 

“Everyone speaks to each other and there’s nothing really bad going on at all”, he said.

It’s just an easy place to work in, we work together and it just makes it easier for people like me who have to fit in from far away.”

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Nick Jensen
Nick Jensen
Journalism Student at Massey University Wellington and a passionate Football Fan, covering the Wellington Phoenix Men and Women for the 2022/23 season.

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