Having completed the switch to the Stadium of Light in the search for consistent first-team football, the Romanian stopper must have been disappointed to have found himself on the substitutes bench at the opening of this campaign, but he was rewarded with his first start following Vito Mannone’s poor form in games with Southampton and Arsenal - in which he conceded 10 goals.
Gus Poyet’s men have yet to lose since Pantilimon has come into the side, and, considering the defensive issues currently clouding Wearside, they have done remarkably well to pick up five points from a possible nine. The 27-year-old kept his first clean-sheet of the season on Saturday, as Sunderland clinched a 0-0 draw in a tough fought game at Leicester, and he told the Chronicle that the result will be good for the team’s confidence.
“It is true that I have got my first clean sheet now,” the former City man said. “It is good for the team’s confidence and for the team to have good results. We have to try to continue like this and grow together.”
The upturn in form since the two-game, 10-goal haul has been a remarkable feat for Sunderland, and Pantilimon - who won the Premier League title with City last season - has played a key part. However, it is not just his talents between the posts that has aided the club, but his mentality, having instilled a winning belief in the playing squad.
Whereas Mannone struggled to overcome the mistakes he made in the defeat to Southampton - making a further mistake in the Arsenal game - Pantilimon has shrugged off that game, insisting that the club should only look forward.
“That was an accident game,” he added. “We don’t like to discuss that now.
“It was important our reaction was positive after that and we have shown that mental strength. We have reacted well. I don’t want to discuss that game anymore, it’s gone. It is in the past. It is finished. We like to move forward.”
With the majority of the Black Cats squad comprised of players who have never won a trophy, to have a player of Pantilimon’s experience could prove to be vital this season - as it already has. He has allayed the fears surrounding the squad at the Stadium of Light, and his proven winning track record is sure to help galvanise his teammates in the fight for survival. He may not win a trophy with Sunderland, but he is sure to play a vital part as the Black Cats look to secure their Premier League status.