Costel Pantilimon raring to go for Sunderland

SAFC Training at the Academy of Light on Tuesday morning

SAFC Training at the Academy of Light on Tuesday morning

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Costel Pantilimon is relieved that he will be fit for the start of the season after spending his summer on the treatment table.

Pantilimon made his first appearance of pre-season in Sunderland’s victory over MLS outfit Toronto FC in the early hours of yesterday morning, with Dick Advocaat’s squad landing back in the North East today.

I’m happy to be back and healthy

Costel Pantilimon

The keeper sustained a knee injury during the goalless draw at Arsenal which secured Premier League survival at the end of last season, and was forced to miss Romania’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Northern Ireland last month.

Pantilimon only recommenced full training last week, but after completing the full 90 minutes against Toronto, the 28-year-old will be ready for Sunderland’s opening Premier League encounter at Leicester in a fortnight.

He said: “It’s nice for me because I’ve recovered from the injury, I’m happy to be back and healthy.

“I missed the internationals, which were very important for us.

“But the most important thing is to be healthy now and I hope I can enjoy the rest of pre-season.”

Pantilimon was the pick of Sunderland’s summer signings 12 months ago after arriving on a Bosman deal from Manchester City and then displacing Vito Mannone as Black Cats number one.

But he remains eager for progress both personally and from Sunderland after last season’s nerve-shredding brush with the drop.

“Every season you want to improve, it’s normal to be like that,” he said.

“You have to be able to progress as a player.

“Both for me, and the team, you need to be able to do that every year.

“I don’t want to suffer another year like last season.

“I want to be part of a team getting better results and to be in a position where you can say, we are safe and we can fight for higher places, rather than against relegation.”

Sunderland will need to improve from the performances shown so far during their pre-season campaign though after struggling to convince in North America.

The Black Cats at least managed to end their 12-day stint on the other side of the Atlantic with a win against Toronto, with Advocaat giving his players the weekend off, before they begin preparing for Wednesday’s friendly at Doncaster.

“It was important to finish that part of pre-season with a win and a good result for our confidence,” added Pantilimon.

“Let’s keep it like that and enjoy the new season.”