COSTEL Pantilimon admits the start of his Sunderland career was challenging after playing second fiddle following his arrival from Manchester City.
But the goalkeeper is now hoping to prolong his run in the starting XI after thriving since ousting Vito Mannone from the number one spot.
Pantilimon was tipped to be Sunderland’s first-choice keeper after opting to leave Premier League champions Man City to pen a four-year deal at the Stadium of Light during the summer.
However, Sunderland boss Gus Poyet opted to keep faith with last year’s Player of the Season Mannone at the start of the campaign.
But after Mannone’s mistakes against Southampton and Arsenal, Pantilimon has started Sunderland’s last two games, with the Romanian international making the most of his belated opportunity.
Pantilimon said: “It was hard the first few months, but I had the support of my team-mates and the staff. It helps when you have good people behind you and they support you.
“Obviously I had to wait a few months for my first start. But I hope to help the team now and improve every day.
“For me, it’s important to continue in this way and get good results.
“I said all the time that it was going to be like this with Vito.
“It’s important to have that competition in every team, because it’s the only way to improve.
“We work together and work well. He’s a great team-mate.”
Pantilimon was due to return to training at the Academy of Light today after featuring in Romania’s friendly victory over Denmark on Tuesday night.
While the international break may have halted Sunderland’s momentum after four points from two games, it has provided a chance for the Black Cats’ injured contingent to return to the fold.
And with Sunderland facing a Leicester side who have lost their last four this weekend, Pantilimon is looking for Poyet’s side to continue the recovery from last month’s 8-0 mauling at Southampton.
“It was important for us after Crystal Palace to keep getting points, and to get better and better,” added the 27-year-old.
“We need to continue like that. It’s not enough to get one win and then stop.
“We did a good job against Everton and it was a good performance.
“Southampton was an accident. We don’t like to talk about it.
“We’ve had a good recovery, cleared our minds and we can now be more powerful.”