Costel Pantilimon says he has signed for Watford to push Heurelho Gomes for the No.1 jersey, not just warm the bench and cement his reputation as an archetypal understudy.
The Hornets fought off competition from several European clubs to land the Romanian who was No.1 at Sunderland until he carried the can for the 3-1 defeat at Chelsea the week before Christmas. Watford became aware of his availability last week and moved quickly to tie up the deal. He will train with goalkeepers Heurelho Gomes, Giedrius Arlauskis and Nathan Gartside, under the watchful eye of Paolo De Toffol, tomorrow. He should be the No.2 keeper against Newcastle United on Saturday and is in line to make his debut in the FA Cup fourth-round tie at Nottingham Forest.
Pantilimon became something of a cup specialist at Manchester City. His four appearances at City in 2011/12 all came in the cup, as they did in 12/13 when he featured seven times, including once in the Champions League. He got seven Premier League appearances in 13/14 when Joe Hart was injured, plus five in the Capital One Cup when City beat Sunderland in the final. He moved to Sunderland last season and was the No.1 but this season he’s come under pressure from Vito Mannone and Jordan Pickford and decided being second choice at Watford was better than being third at the Stadium of Light.
“I can’t wait,” he said in an interview with Hornets Player. “It’s a pleasure for me to sign with this club. It was the best option for me. It’s a new club in the Premier League, the project here is good. It’s a great choice for me. I like the management, I like the players and I made the right choice.”
Pantilimon’s penultimate appearance for the Black Cats was in the 1-0 defeat at the hands of the Hornets at the Stadium of Light last month. He also faced a different looking Watford side in February 2014, conceding goals at the hands of Fernando Forestieri and Troy Deeney before City came roaring back.
“Watford have good players, young players and the club is in a good position, especially for the first year in the the Premier League,” he said. “It’s perfect. I hope to help the team to grow.”
He needs to help them out of a slump first, a run of four straight defeats and one point out of the last 15 leaving them looking nervously over their shoulder. Gomes has no reason to look over his own shoulder and worry about his spot but the arrival of Pantilimon, who turns 29 at the start of next month, and his presence on the bench will cause a few less anxious moments when Gomes next goes down injured.
“He’s a good keeper,” said Pantilimon. “I know him from when we played against Watford [before]. He’s a nice guy and I will fight for my position. I just want to say I respect everyone and I try to help the team.”