Mignolet happy to provide the recipe for success at Sunderland
Steve Bruce looks like the type of manager who is not afraid to tell his players to make mincemeat out of the opposition'. Quite what goalkeeper Simon Mignolet would make of such an instruction, though, remains to be seen. Mincemeat, when you're a strapping 22-year-old used to good, old-fashioned home cooking, can be a touchy subject. Especially when your friends have to embark on a 12- hour trip to make sure your larder is fully stocked. A group of supporters from my hometown club came over for the Arsenal game, said Mignolet, who has proved an unqualified success since making a £2m move from Belgian side Sint-Truiden in the summer. They came over by coach, it took them 12 hours. It was a little crazy, so you have to give them respect. I think there were 30 of them on an old bus. One of the guys I knew called me maybe two weeks beforehand and told me they were coming. They brought a letter from the old president of Sint-Truiden to make me happy. I miss some people over there, there was something from them. It was nice. They also brought me some Belgian cheese and mincemeat. The mincemeat here is quite different to Belgium, and I said that once to a newspaper so to joke with me they brought some along. It was very welcome though. It's different, I don't know why. And I need what I'm used to if I'm going to cook. As well as rustling up a halfdecent mince pie, Mignolet has cooked up something of a storm with his performances between the sticks in the opening two months of the season. Signed primarily to provide cover to established firstchoice Craig Gordon, he was thrust into the first team when the Scotsman broke his arm and Steve Bruce was denied the funds required to sign a replacement. His performances since have been exemplary, culminating in Monday's eye-catching display when he withstood a barrage of aerial assaults to help Sunderland record a creditable clean sheet at Blackburn. I'm very happy, said Mignolet. When you come from abroad at 22 years old and play the first ten competitive games your team plays, then you have to be happy. It's a huge experience to play every single game so far. I learned a lot and hopefully I can learn more in the next couple of weeks. When I signed I wasn't expecting to play as many games as I have so far, so I'm happy with that. I think I made the right choice when I came to Sunderland. I had some other options in Europe, but I made the choice for Sunderland and I'm very happy here. I can't regret my decision. With Gordon having recovered full fitness, the decisionmaking now switches to Bruce. Gordon performed superbly in the second half of last season, justifying the £9m price tag that accompanied him when he was signed by Roy Keane and establishing himself as one of the most highlyrated goalkeepers in the Premier League. Yet Mignolet could hardly have performed better so far, and can justifiably expect to keep his place when Aston Villa visit the Stadium of Light this afternoon. I played against Blackburn with Craig on the bench, as he was against Liverpool and Manchester United, he said. I'm happy to play. The only thing I can do is do my best in every single training session and every single game I play. Then, we'll see what happens because the manager has to make a decision. The only thing I can do is try to work hard and prove myself every single day. He has done that so far, but as well as picking a side to face Villa this afternoon, Bruce will also surely be mindful of the Tyne-Wear derby with Newcastle that is looming on the horizon a week tomorrow. Is the Sunderland boss happy to field the still-inexperienced Mignolet in the cauldron of St James' Park And if he isn't, will he feel that Gordon has to play today in order to guarantee his readiness for the trip to Tyneside I have not thought about the Newcastle game, only Villa, said Bruce. I have been very pleased the way we have played, and that includes Simon. I have to be fair and encourage the squad situation, I can't leave people out if they are playing so well. I would find that difficult. If I am going to be fair to them and say, When you get your chance take it', you would create a monster for yourself if you then took them out of the team. If you have your hands on the jersey and play well, then fine. We brought Simon in as a young keeper to learn under Craig, but since he made a few early saves, he's proved to be a fantastic keeper. What you see day in day out on the training ground, you just go Wow' he is one of them.
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