Pantelidis sheds the Lion tag


Steve Pantelidis says the ferocious tag that has stuck with him in his career is one he is looking to shed.

Long regarded as one of the Hyundai A-League’s most ferocious players, that label now sits uncomfortably with Perth Glory utility Steve Pantelidis.

It’s a reputation 28-year-old Pantelidis picked up in previous stints with Melbourne Victory and Gold Coast United, where he spent four and two seasons respectively before signing a one-year deal with Perth just after the 2011-12 campaign began.

At times it was a justifiable description, with an elbowing incident involving Joel Griffiths in 2007, plus a suspension for hitting Robbie Kruse in the back of the head a few years later, causing plenty of controversy.

But the versatile defensive-minded player has grown to resent the “hardman” tag after working to clean up his act.

“I’m a little bit uncomfortable with it now,” Pantelidis said.

“Two years ago it was probably warranted, but in my stint on the Gold Coast I was only suspended once and that was through yellow cards and this year I’ve only got three yellow cards.”

“It’s a label that sort of stuck on me a few years ago but if you look at my statistics there’s players out there getting a lot more yellow cards than me.”

“To be honest I’m pretty tired of answering the same questions all the time but what can you do, I guess that’s my reputation.”

In his first season with Perth, Pantelidis has shown there is much more to his game than aggression.

Brought in as the last man in coach Ian Ferguson’s squad, Pantelidis struggled with injuries early in the season but his return to health was perfectly timed.

Injuries at various points to Chris Coyne, Bas van den Brink and Josh Mitchell forced Ferguson to field Pantelidis – who had played most of his recent career as a defensive midfielder – at the heart of defence and he grabbed that chance with both hands.

The Victorian has held onto his starting central defensive spot for every game of Perth’s eight-match unbeaten run with a series of assured and composed performances that have helped the club surge up the table.

The Glory conceded seven goals in the first three games Pantelidis started at the back, but since then they’ve given up just three in six matches – five of which have brought victories.

“I was probably nervous in the first one or two games but now my confidence is there,” he said.

“My positioning is better, I probably got caught out a bit at the start but now I’m a lot more switched on. I’m really enjoying playing there and I think it suits me as well.”

Now Pantelidis, who has played 11 games this season, is hoping to be offered a new contract at the end of the season.

“I’d love to stay here long-term, that’d be great,” he said.

“Me and my partner are very settled here, we’re really enjoying the lifestyle because Perth is a great place.”

“I missed the first nine games so I think I’ve still got to prove myself a little bit more to get a new deal.”

“Hopefully if I keep doing well I can earn a new contract, but I’m not really thinking about that. My main aim is to play good football and everything will look after itself if I do that.”