Sunderland's Simon Mignolet calls for unity

16 April 2011 02:28
He is the new Belgian international goalkeeper, who speaks five languages, is studying for a degree in social and political science and has a fan club who regularly make a day-long trip from the continent to the North East.

Sunderland keeper Simon Mignolet has gone from virtual unknown to become one of the key figures in his side's unexpected fight for Barclays Premier League survival.

Mignolet was signed as cover for Craig Gordon by Steve Bruce last summer for ?2million. When the Scotland Number One was out with a broken wrist at the start of the season, he kept six clean sheets in his first 13 games. 

Thrust into action: Simon Mignolet has appeared more than he would have expected this season due to Craig Gordon's injury problems

But now that Gordon's knee injury has thrust the 22-year-old from Sint-Truiden back into a relegation battle and Sunderland's league freefall, he has found life tougher and conceded 12 goals in just five games.

But Mignolet is confident he and Bruce's remaining fit players, can steer the Wearside club to safety.

The keeper said: 'At the start of the season, everything was going well and everyone was happy. We were winning games and scoring goals. Suddenly, we can't do that anymore.

'It's not easy because everyone in the squad is down. It is a logical thing because the only thing we want to do is win football matches.

'Mentally, it is not easy to cope with what's happening. But you have to stay professional, look forward and stay positive. We have to stick together and we win the next couple of games.

'We are the same team we were three months ago and I do not think anything has changed. It is true we are on a bad run but if we win a couple of games, we will be back where we were when this bad run started.

Jack of all trades: Mignolet is fluent in five languages and studying for a degree

'We are looking up the table, not behind us, and we all want to be back in the top ten. Everyone knows if we are at our best, we are still very capable of achieving our aim.'

Mignolet's Sunderland performances have not gone unnoticed in Belgium. The keeper, who turned down PSV Eindhoven to join Bruce, won his first full caps against Austria and Azerbaijan last month.

And he is hopeful his loyal band of fans from his home-town will be able to make a return trip to Wearside before the season ends.

More than 30 have already been over this season, travelling for 24 hours by bus, armed with gifts of local cheeses, mincemeats and a letter from the town mayor and club president.

Mignolet added: 'It was crazy but I had so much respect for them. I managed to meet them and buy them all a drink but a few of them had already enjoyed a few drinks by then. Hopefully they will come back again.'

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 Explore more:People: Steve Bruce, Craig Gordon Places: Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium

Source: Daily_Mail