Retro Corner: The villain we came to love

Anti-heroes are a key element within the drama that makes football such a unique spectacle.

Beloved by fans of the club they represent and reviled by seemingly everyone else, these characters come in a variety of shapes and sizes and earn their notoriety in a number of different ways.

There are the hatchet men, the practitioners of the dark arts of gamesmanship and then there are those whose reputation is forged by their off-field proclivities.

The Hyundai A-League has provided a stage for plenty of such figures over the years and the likes of Besart Berisha and Fernando Brandan are still proudly keeping the tradition alive.

But our focus today is on a Glory anti-hero; a man who was transformed from a player we loved to hate into a player we loved to love.

So who was it? [and we do appreciate that the picture was something of a giveaway...]

Arise, Sir Steve Pantelidis.

During his spells with both Gold Coast United and Melbourne Victory, the defender-cum-midfielder rarely missed an opportunity to kick Glory players up in the air, niggle them off the ball and generally play the role of pantomime villain with aplomb.

In 15 appearances against us, he was booked on no fewer than 10 occasions and could arguably have been sent off in at least half of those games.

And yet when he signed for the club in 2011, it took him only a matter of months to establish himself as something of a cult hero with the same nib Stadium faithful that had been screaming for his blood for the previous five seasons.

Arriving late in the off-season and carrying an injury, it was not until Round 12 that he made his first start, but Pantelidis immediately became a fixture in the side which duly embarked upon a remarkable run that would, of course, culminate in a maiden A-League Grand Final appearance against Brisbane Roar.

A rugged and uncompromising defender, he excelled at keeping the game simple, at winning the ball, moving it on with a short pass and thus getting his side back on the front.

And the Melburnian also belied his snarling on-field persona by being great company off it.

Amiable and approachable with a quietly dry sense of humour, ‘Panta’ was genuinely one of the good guys.

But enough of our reminiscing.

We’d love to get your memories of the man who eventually chalked up 49 appearances for the club before moving on in 2014.

So join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter – we’d love to hear from you!

#CREATEDESTINY