IT MUST rate as one of the toughest lyrical challenges to squeeze Costel Pantilimon’s name into a chant with any degree of creativity.
“One Costel Pantilimon, there’s only one Costel Pantilimon,” doesn’t exactly slip off the tongue.
But the tenacity on the terraces to salute the giant Romanian overcame that linguistic hurdle, when the 3,000 travelling fans debuted a new ditty in the defeat at Spurs a fortnight ago.
The chant, to the tune of the Four Non Blondes’ 1993 hit What’s Going On, rang out throughout the second half at White Hart Lane.
It even had Pantilimon whistling it on the training ground in the days that followed.
“I heard the song a little bit during the game and then I heard more about it afterwards,” Pantilimon told the Echo.
“I am happy because the fans showed me respect and I am glad to be here and to be with the team and the fans.
“It’s a happy thing for me.”
It was a telling endorsement of Pantilimon.
Supporters were unsure about the arrival of the ex-Manchester City man on a four-year deal during the summer.
Fellow stopper Vito Mannone had just won Player of the Season and boasted a genuine bond with fans.
Surely, it was a back-up keeper that was required, rather than one signed with a view to ultimately being Sunderland number one?
When other areas of the park clearly needed addressing as a greater priority too, it initially didn’t look to be the most prudent use of Sunderland’s limited resources.
However, after Mannone shipped eight goals at Southampton, and then suffered another clanger against Arsenal seven days later, the Italian needed to be taken out of the firing line.
Pantilimon stepped in at Crystal Palace and has barely put a foot wrong since – dominating his penalty area and producing several eye-catching saves.
He has won the doubters over and is now in the midst of by some distance, his longest run of successive Premier League games.
“For me it is important to grow and to perform better and better with every game,” said the 27-year-old.
“But the most important thing is the team improves.
“We hope it will be like this from tomorrow (against Burnley).
“It’s the manager’s decision and I respect that.
“It is important to give everything for the team from the moment we go onto the pitch.
“Everyone is happy when he is playing.”
Pantilimon should return to the starting XI for this weekend’s crunch clash against Burnley, as Sunderland look to secure only a second home Premier League win of the campaign.
Mannone made his first competitive appearance since being dropped, in last Saturday’s FA Cup stalemate against Fulham.
But Pantilimon didn’t begrudge the Italian getting some minutes under his belt.
Pantilimon has been on first name terms with life as a back-up keeper – both at Man City and at the start of the season when Mannone remained in the starting XI.
And he knows the importance of under-used players getting an opportunity in the cup competitions.
“It’s not just for Vito, but for every player,” added Pantilimon.
“It was okay (being on the bench against Fulham) because there are other players who deserve to play.
“Everyone trains hard and has a part to play for the team.
“We have good players, some have been injured, and it is good for them and for everybody that they are ready to give 100 per cent for the team.”