Mignolet approaching club milestone

by Stuart Vose

Goalkeeper on his love for Sunderland and his 100th game.

Simon Mignolet admits his ascent to his current status as Sunderland's number one seems to have flashed by in the blink of an eye.

The Belgian goalkeeper has progressed rapidly since joining the club from his home-town club, Sint-Truiden, in summer 2010.

He has become a firm fan favourite on Wearside and has received wide-ranging praise for his performances this season – capped with the North East Football Writers' player of the year award last weekend.

It's the latest stop on a whirlwind ride for the stopper, who says settling in quickly in the north east was key.

“The day I signed here seems like yesterday – it’s all gone very quickly,” he explained.

“I’ve adapted very easily in the area here and I’ve enjoyed it since [signing] – I can’t complain about how it’s all gone since the day I signed here.

“I'm very pleased to be here and I enjoy it. It's quite similar to back home.

“It’s only an hour and 15 minutes away from home on the plane so I have got to know a lot of people round here and made quite a lot of friends.”

The 24-year-old is closing in on a century of appearances for Sunderland, sitting just 10 games short of the landmark.

His senior debut, against Birmingham on the opening day of the 2010-11 season, seems a lifetime ago and proved to be the catalyst for a key role on the first-team scene.

An injury to then-number one Craig Gordon gave the big Belgian his chance just two months after joining the club – and he's never looked back.

He says the importance of a good start on Wearside can't be underestimated and is hoping for a successful end to his third campaign at the Stadium of Light.

“During my first seven games here I didn’t really make any mistakes and I felt it was important to just keep going – those seven games gave me a lot of experience and a lot of confidence as well and since then I’ve nearly played every game.

“Now I’m close to 100 appearances for Sunderland Football Club so let’s hope that it stays that way and I stay injury free and try and do what I can. I train hard every single day.

“I’m closing in on 100 but I don’t see that as an end – I hope I can play as much as I can – the main focus for me is to keep going because there is still a lot to play for and hopefully we can finish well in the table.”

Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill says Mignolet's modest nature is part of his appeal and a key reason behind his success so far.

And the keeper, who recently dismissed speculation linking him with a move away from the club, is determined to keep improving and wouldn't dream of resting on his laurels.

“I still know I can progress a lot and when you’re at my age as a goalkeeper – there’s still a lot to train for,” he said.

“I just try and do what I do every single day in training and keep fit really – that’s the main thing.”

He concluded: “Sunderland is a place that loves its football. If you see the games – not just the derbies, but every single home game - you know how passionate the fans are about the club and I think that can only drive the club forward.”