The West

Patience pays for Panta
Patience pays for Panta

UPDATE: Perth Glory coach Ian Ferguson agonised over whether to include Steve Pantelidis or Bas van den Brink in his team at the start of the season before opting for the latter.

But three games later, he has called on Pantelidis to fill a centre-back position after van den Brink was ruled out of Sunday's match against Melbourne Heart at nib Stadium because of a calf injury.

Known for his tough and uncomplicated style, Pantelidis was a revelation last season, breaking into the starting line-up in December and hanging on to his place for the remaining 20 matches.

But the off-season arrival of Socceroos defender Michael Thwaite left Ferguson with three potential first-choice central defenders in a system which can accommodate only two. Pantelidis was the man to miss out - until now.

"It was always a tough decision for me," Ferguson said of choosing van den Brink in the first two rounds of the season.

"Panta is a player who did exceptionally well for us last year but unfortunately I can only pick two. He was always in my thoughts. Last season he made that position his own and now he's got another opportunity."

So, too, has big striker Billy Mehmet, who was promoted to the starting line-up last weekend in the absence of star striker Shane Smeltz, who was on international duty.

New Zealand striker Smeltz returned to Perth with a hamstring tear and has been ruled out of the Heart clash. He is also likely to miss the next two games, against Sydney and Newcastle Jets.

Smeltz had a hectic schedule between last season's grand final and the new campaign, squeezing into his itinerary the Olympic Games, World Cup qualifiers and international friendlies.

"He's a player who looks after his body so I don't know if it's been the travelling with the Olympics and all the other games that's maybe taken its toll now," Ferguson said.

The introduction of Pantelidis is the only change to Glory's starting XI from the team which went down 1-0 to the Central Coast Mariners last Sunday.

Heart will be without former Glory defender Simon Colosimo, who is suspended after being sent off for handling the ball last weekend.

But there will be additional incentive for Heart midfielder Richard Garcia to impress in front of family and friends on his return to his home town.

Garcia left Perth as a 15-year-old to join West Ham United and spent 15 years in England.

Glory expressed an interest in signing the Socceroos winger but he was snapped up by Heart coach John Aloisi.

Glory: 1. Vukovic 4. Mehmet 5. Pantelidis 7. Burns (c) 8. Heffernan 10. Miller, 13. Dodd, 14. McGarry 19. Risdon 21. Jamieson 23. Thwaite. Subs: 6. Ward, 11. Zahra, 17. Harold, 30. Italiano.

The West Australian

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