NIALL Quinn believes it is “no coincidence” Sunderland have started picking up clean sheets since Costel Pantilimon broke into the first team.
The giant Romanian goalkeeper helped the Black Cats record back-to-back clean sheets for the first time this season by shutting out league leaders Chelsea on Saturday teatime.
The goalless draw followed on from the solid point secured away to Leicester City and Quinn says he is a “big fan” of Pantilimon ahead of tomorrow night’s match against his former club.
Gus Poyet’s side take on Premier League Champions Manchester City at the Stadium of Light and the Romanian will be keen to make it a hat-trick of shut outs against his former employers.
His place in Sunderland’s starting line-up following his summer Bosman had been barred by last season’s Player of the Season Vito Mannone.
But the crushing 8-0 defeat away to Southampton followed by the 2-0 home defeat to Arsenal saw Poyet make a switch in goal.
Neither Sunderland or Pantilimon have looked back since – picking up five points in the last three matches.
Quinn told the Echo: “I am a big fan of Pantilimon – he looks the part.
“He’s a giant of a man and it’s no surprise they’ve started keeping clean sheets with him.
“He got another at the weekend and that is no coincidence with him around.
“The defence looks to have now been sorted out and Pantilimon has boosted that.
“Sunderland have slowed down on the OGs as well and they look more solid.
“You just hope it will get more creative at the other end.”
Pantilimon, who impressed in the win at Crystal Palace and the subsequent draws against Everton, Leicester and Chelsea, won two premier league titles and a league cup winners medal during his three-year stint at City.
He might have expected to have walked straight into the Sunderland team, but had to be patient and wait until early November.
Mannone had an extended run in the side at the start of the current campaign, an opportunity earned on the back of an outstanding debut season at Sunderland.
But Pantilimon has impressed since being handed the gloves, has started to dominate his area and produced a fantastic finger-tip save in the televised match against Chelsea to deny Branislav Ivanovic.
Former Sunderland player, manager and chairman, Quinn is now a respected television pundit on Sky Sports.
He has been keeping a close eye on the progress of Pantilimon and his Black Cats teammates.
“I get to see the games from a lovely seat now,” said Quinn.
“I don’t have the butterflies in the belly or screaming at referees for giving a bad decision. Mind, I suppose my family may say different.
“Towards the back end of last season, watching those Sunderland games on television, at home, you still feel everything.
“I was all over the place and it is hard not be when you have been that close and the club has meant so much to you.
“My boss continually reminds me not to show favouritism, but I think at this stage he understands how difficult it is.”