EXCLUSIVE: Perth Glory’s former Victory star Steve Pantelidis admits it’s still special facing the club that axed him – but don’t expect the midfielder to be lunging into tackles against Victory on Saturday.
These days it’s a calmer Pantelidis after a reckless disciplinary record blotted his copybook over two seasons at Gold Coast United.
At one stage he had 11 yellows in 17 games, many from wild tackles. It prompted Pantelidis to liken his brain snaps to former AFL loony-turned boxer Barry Hall.
Pantelidis, now 28, admitted the terrible disciplinary record was in part trying to prove himself after his parting of ways with Victory in 2009 following four seasons and a haul of medals.
The Victorian proudly pointed to his disciplinary record this season as undeniable proof he’s changed.
“I’ve grown up a little bit,” he told au.fourfourtwo.com. "I had one very bad season after I left Victory - basically I was just trying to prove a point.
“I was pumped up probably a bit too much.”
The new, calmer Pantelidis is now apparently off the angry pills after joining Ian Ferguson’s Glory last October.
“After that first year I was only suspended once and this year not at all," he said. "The gaffer told me he wasn’t going to tolerate any of that.
“I only had one off year you could say. On the pitch I have lost my head… but everyone says I’m a nice guy!”
Pantelidis has featured in three A-League finals campaigns, winning a championship with Victory in 2006.
Learning his football in Melbourne means Saturday's clash with Victory remains special – even if it’s been a while since he wore blue.
He added: “It’s always good coming up against your former club and I’ve got some good memories from there.
“But I only have one or two numbers left on my phone from the boys I played with back then.”
Pantelidis predicted there would be finger pointing at Victory following their disappointing season, a campaign that has seen them miss out on the finals despite a squad of superstars and attacking riches.
“But I’m sure they’ll bounce back,” Pantelidis said. “And if Jim Magilton gets the nod I’m sure he’ll do a good job.”
Prior to arriving in the WA capital, Panta himself enjoyed a rollercoaster spell in Indonesia with Bintang Medan. Pantelidis was made captain of the team but the rebel league collapsed leaving him club-less just months into his stint.
Being part of a club in a non-FIFA sanctioned competition and Indonesian football culture was a massive learning curve.
“I was in limbo but I got the chance here," he said. "I played 10 or 11 games for them. The standard was pretty poor to be honest. The pitches were poor. It was a bit of an eye-opener.
“Probably in hindsight, going to Indonesia was the wrong decision but things happen for a reason, and I’ve found myself here in Perth and enjoying the weather and the football.
"You appreciate the A-League now.”
As a former NSL player with Melbourne Knights, Pantelidis knows all about how passionate the Perth fans can be when their team is in the play-offs.
The first finals game will be played at nib Stadium, the club confirmed yesterday, and Pantelidis tipped massive crowds to get behind the side in just over a week’s time.
Pantelidis is unequivocal about Perth as a football destination.
“Ten out of ten," he said. "You can’t complain here. And within in the team there’s confidence. We’re on a successful run at the moment and we’ve broken a few records on the way.
“We’re looking forward to Victory, then our first home final and hopefully we can cement third spot which potentially means a second home final if we can get past the first final.
“From that point on, pretty much anything can happen.”
At training today, injured captain Jacob Burns sat it out while Liam Miller was put through his paces with a series of long sprints.
He came through that seemingly okay while defender Chris Coyne was restricted to cycling and boxing.