GUS Poyet has praised the professionalism of Costel Pantilimon in biding his time at Sunderland.
The giant Romanian goalkeeper has finally broken into the first team in the last couple of Premier League games – impressing both in the win at Crystal Palace and draw against Everton.
But having joined the Black Cats in the summer from Premier League champions Manchester City, Pantilimon might have expected to go into the team from the very start of the season rather than wait until November for his opportunity.
And Poyet says that when Player of the Season Vito Mannone barred his way into the first team, Pantilimon showed the right attitude in getting over his disappointment and prove himself continually in training.
“Costel has done well,” said the Sunderland head coach. “He was ready to come in.
“I brought Costel to the club and I have to say that I told him before he came that I couldn’t promise him to play.
“He was leaving Man City and he was looking for a place to go and play but I warned him: ‘if you want it easy, this is not the place’.
“But he knew, he came, he did well in pre-season and thought he had a chance.
“The manager decided ‘no’, but he took it and he waited.”
Poyet said choosing between his goalkeepers has been one of the more difficult decisions of the campaign so far.
But he feels he was right to put Vito in when he did and right to give Costel his opportunity too.
“It’s one of the challenges we faced at the beginning of the season,” he said.
“It was important at the beginning to put Vito on and then of course it was a hard decision to change it.
But we always have to look for the benefit of the team and it was time to make that change.
“I think, of course, Costel wanted to play when he got here – which was good.
“Then he was upset when he didn’t – which was also good.
“But then he got on with it professionally and to be honest, last week in training, he was outstanding and we were looking for that.
“Then, he needed to perform in the games themselves and he has certainly done that.”
Mannone had an extended run in the side at the start of the current campaign, an opportunity he earned on the back of an outstanding debut season at Sunderland.
But now that Pantilimon has the gloves, the Romanian could be set for a long stay in the first team with Poyet acknowledging that it is usually his preference to keep a settled side.
“There are positions on the pitch that you try not to change a lot,” he explained.
“But we have had to change – we changed the keeper, we had to change with Wes Brown previously, with Lee Cattermole for our last game…
“That doesn’t bring consistency – which is what we need to have.
“So the opportunity is clear for the players: if they play well, they have a great chance of staying in the first team.”