New goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon expecting fair competition at Sunderland

New Sunderland goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon believes he will get a fair chance to show what he can do for the Black Cats

David Rogers/Getty Images Costel Pantilimon
Costel Pantilimon

Costel Pantilimon is confident he will be given a fair chance to show what he can do at Sunderland.

The Romanian goalkeeper had a run in Manchester City’s side at the back end of 2013, missing only two Champions League matches in an 11-game sequence as Joe Hart struggled for form.

Pantilimon did well during that period, but there was an air of inevitability about Hart’s return.

Having risked joining Sunderland, where Vito Mannone was last season’s player of the year, the 27-year-old believes he will be judged entirely on his merits.

“After speaking with the manager here I knew it would be fair competition,” he said. “It would be the same for the keepers as for all of the other players. The one who is doing well is going to be in the team.

“There should be fair competition for everyone and whoever is working hard should be the one in the team.”

Pantilimon can take encouragement from the fact Mannone started last season as Sunderland’s No.2. But when Keiren Westwood suffered concussion at Hull City in November, the Italian held onto the place.

It is important for Pantilimon’s career that he does establish himself as first choice. He has not started a competitive international since October 2011, shortly after moving to Eastlands.

“I wanted to play first-team football,” he stressed. “I am young and I want to regain my spot as No.1 in the national team. I was working hard at City and I tried to do my best. I will do the same here. I am sure there will be big competition here. Vito is a good keeper. It’s important for me to work hard and to be ambitious.

“There were many reasons why I left Manchester City, it wasn’t just when I lost my place to Joe Hart last season. The manager and the staff knew about my situation and knew I was a keeper who needs to play.

“I want to thank them for everything. They helped me a lot. They offered me a chance to win trophies. Now I am only thinking about Sunderland. I hope I can show more of what I can do. It is important for me and for everyone.

“Before I came here I spoke to the manager. We talked about a few things and I like the product. I like his ideas. He is an ambitious manager. I think it’s the right place for me to come.”

Along with Billy Jones and Jordi Gomez, the 6ft 8in tallest player in the Premier League was one of three Bosman free signings confirmed before the transfer window opened but – as sporting director Lee Congerton has admitted – progress since has been frustratingly slow. Atletico Madrid left-winger Cristian Rodriguez is the latest target to be linked.

Meanwhile, Jozy Altidore has described this summer’s World Cup as the low point of his career.

The striker tore his hamstring 23 minutes into the USA’s opening game against Ghana, but is now focussed on being fit for the start of the new season.

“I was just miserable,” he said. “I’ve never felt so low as a player. You look forward to it for so long and I was feeling really good and confident. For that to happen, I don’t really have the words.

“Now I’m just focused on getting healthy and back to how I was before the World Cup. I haven’t felt that good in a while. Everything was clicking for me. Now I just want to start the season healthy and focused and hopefully everything will go well.”

Sunderland will play a pre-season friendly against Spanish Segunda Division side Real Betis on August 7 at Heritage Park, Bishop Auckland (7.30pm).

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