Pantelis on the mend

Wellington Phoenix midfielder Lucas Pantelis has become something of a forgotten man.

Wellington Phoenix midfielder Lucas Pantelis has become something of a forgotten man.

Just months after arriving in the New Zealand capital from Adelaide, the 29-year-old suffered a season-ending knee injury before a ball had been kicked in anger.

He required a full knee reconstruction and in his own words had to 'learn how to walk again' all the while the Phoenix have been experiencing the highs and lows of another Hyundai A-League campaign.

While his team-mates have trained, played, travelled, risen to the heights of second place in the league, and dropped back down to their current position of fourth, Pantelis has endured hours in the pool, on the bike and in the gym and is now walking without a limp and hopes to be jogging again by the end of March.

It has been a lonely road and he has missed the banter of the changing room and getting to know his team-mates.

"If I'd been here for two or three years where the players all know me it would have been a bit different. But the fact I was new you do feel a little bit left out, especially when the boys travel," Pantelis admitted.

"You're always asking questions. What happened? You want to know all about the funny stuff that goes on around the away trips and you do definitely miss that."

"When a team is going well, like we have been, you wish you were part of it. You are kind of part of it from a team perspective but you're not actually doing anything with respects to that achievement."

"But hopefully I can come back fitter and stronger next year and be involved in all of that."

It is not surprising given the lengthy recovery time from such an injury that Pantelis admits some days are better than others.

"That's just the nature of the beast of this injury. It's a grind in your head and that's where you've got to be strong," he said.

"I feel I am strong in the head and I've got great support at home which helps very much."

If he suffers no set-backs and is jogging by the end of March the next target will be sprinting and side-to-side movement by the end of April.

But it is really the start of pre-season for the 2012/13 campaign that Pantelis is looking forward to the most.

"Hopefully by mid-June, when we're due back from the off-season, I want to really get involved at training and do pretty much what the other boys are apart from contact," he said.

"If I can get to June and nothing goes wrong and there are no setbacks then hopefully around July I can start with the contact stuff."

But for this Saturday's match against Sydney he will have to content himself with watching from the couch.

Andrew Durante and Tim Brown are back from suspension for the crucial match between the fourth and sixth-ranked teams separated by just three points.

The Phoenix are looking to bounce back from successive losses with a place in the top six not yet guaranteed.

"They are your heart and soul of the club your captain and vice-captain. To have those guys back this week I'm sure will lift the boys," said Pantelis.

"I think Sydney have been doing better away from home this year than they have been at home, which is a good sign for us."

And the former Adelaide United star said anything less than a spot in the finals would not be acceptable for his new team and hopes they can go on and push for a top-four spot.

"We've still got two home games and I know the record has been pretty good at Westpac Stadium and we've got Gold Coast and Central Coast Mariners there," he said.

"If we can pick up two wins there and maybe a win or two in the away games, the top four is realistic."