Paul Izzo: “Last season was the toughest of my life”

21-year-old Paul Izzo opened up about the toughest year of his life and the healthy competition between goalkeepers right now.

Last season as a 20-year-old the Mariners’ shot stopper played his first full season as the club’s number one goalkeeper and admitted that it was the toughest year of his life both on and off the pitch.

Despite a tough season for the Mariners, Izzo returned to the training track more determined than ever to succeed this pre-season and says that he now knows how strong both himself and the team are mentally.

At the weekend, Izzo started for the first time this season and pulled off numerous impressive saves to deny the likes of Jamie Maclaren during the club’s clash against Brisbane Roar.

“I put in 110% this pre-season so I was obviously, as every player would be, gutted when I found out I wasn’t in the starting squad round one,” Izzo said. “But you’ve gotta look at the bigger picture and you’ve gotta support whoever’s in there and I support that decision.

“Going on from last season, talk’s pretty cheap around here so personally I just want to focus on this week. Last season was mentally as well as physically the toughest year of my entire life inside and outside of football.

“I’m grateful to have gone through that because without it, I wouldn’t know how mentally tough I am – everyone's got their critics and at the end of the day I just focus on myself and as long as I’ve got the support of my team, the coaching staff my family and my friends that’s all I need.

Izzo has played under Paul Okon previously in the Australian youth set up that included the Young Socceroos U-20 FIFA World Cup Campaign in Turkey and noted the lift of intensity since ‘Paolo’s’ arrival.

“Training’s fantastic, since Paolo has come in everyone has raised their standards because Paolo doesn’t give too much away so you’ve always gotta keep working hard just to prove to yourself that you’re doing well and I think that’s a great quality in him,” Izzo said.

“Personally, I just want the team to do well and that’s make the finals. That’s the be all and end all for us and it’s all we should be aiming for.

“We’re miles ahead of the team from last season, this season everyone’s working for each other, we know what we’ve been through so it’s an extra motivation for us and the style that Paolo has us playing will only benefit the team.

The former Adelaide United shot-stopper said the competition between goalkeepers is healthy and helps bring out the best in one another.

“We’re pushing each other to the limit because we all want to be playing and as you’ve seen Paolo will make changes which keeps a sniff for everyone because we know we can be involved if we keep working hard.

“It’s only healthy competition for the team, of course you need to have competition in every position and we have that,” Izzo said.