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On This Day: 28 August 2014 – Giant Romanian ‘keeper makes his Sunderland debut!

ON THIS DAY (2014): Big Costel made his red and white Sunderland bow, as Gus Poyet’s team ease to a 3-0 victory in the League Cup over Birmingham City.

Sunderland v Stoke City - Premier League Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

On this day in 2014, Gus Poyet’s side recorded its first win of the season, with a 3-0 League Cup victory over Lee Clark’s Birmingham City at St Andrews.

After starting the season with two draws – away to West Brom and home to Manchester United (Jack Rodwell notching on his home debut) – we emerged unscathed thanks to goals from Jordi Gomez, Adam Johnson and Connor Wickham.

The team that lined up that night included two debutants – full back Billy Jones and ‘keeper Costel Pantilimon, who’d played for Manchester City against Poyet’s side in the previous season’s League Cup Final.

Soccer : Capital One Cup Final 2014 - Manchester City v Sunderland
Pantilimon’s previous League Cup game had been against Sunderland in the final, six months prior.
Photo by Catherine Ivill/AMA/AMA/Corbis via Getty Images

Pantilimon, the tallest player ever to play for Sunderland, was back on the bench the following game, but replaced Mannone after the Italian conceded ten goals in two games in October.

Pantilimon went onto play the majority of the season, featuring in 28 or the remaining 29 league fixtures – Mannone being given a runout by Dick Advocaat in the final game of the season at Chelsea, which resulted in a 3-1 defeat.

Ironically enough, under Sam Allardyce the following season, it was a 3-1 defeat at Chelsea that saw Pantilimon lose his place in the team – and, with the emergence of Jordan Pickford, Costel was deemed surplus to requirements, departing the club for Watford in the January transfer window.