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Simon Mignolet's troubles come to an end

It was around the dinner table on Boxing Night, during a conversation with his fiancee, when Simon Mignolet realised how his game had malfunctioned. He had just arrived home from a difficult afternoon at Burnley, a game Liverpool won 1-0. His return to action had been unexpected, as Brad Jones suffered an early injury, but when the Belgian goalkeeper came on he was indecisive and his performance lacked confidence and conviction. Mignolet had missed Liverpool’s three previous matches. Brendan Rodgers was vexed by his form and felt a spell out the team, starting against Manchester United, would benefit him but as he shanked clearances and conceded needless corners at Turf Moor, nothing appeared to have changed.

Then came the talk with Jasmien, his long-term partner, which helped reality dawn. Mignolet realised he had stopped doing the things that had persuaded Liverpool to pay Sunderland £9million for his services. Once he had clarity, the fight back could begin. ‘My family were over and my missus and everyone were having dinner,’ says Mignolet. ‘She said “Simon are you sometimes overthinking stuff?” Those were her words. She comes to every game. I said we think about things, but I didn’t really give a response at the time. ‘She knows when to speak about football to me and when to leave me alone. The moment she came up with that and then next day the coaching staff gave me the same words. That was the trigger in my mind that we had to say "look, we have to sort this out". ‘The next day I went into training and again we analysed the game. I was always looking to find best possible solution for situations. I was trying to find the right pass but I had forgotten what the worst solution could be. I have always tended to over think things and that came into my game.’

It had been a horrid season for Mignolet, one that had been filled with criticism from all quarters. Some of it bordered on the vindictive, particularly the insults from former Liverpool keeper Bruce Grobbelaar who risibly likened him to Dracula. Other words, notably from Tim Howard and Gary Neville, also hurt but it is to his credit that he does not want to settle any scores during this conversation. He would be within his rights to shoot back but he has made himself the bigger man, particular where Grobbelaar is concerned. ‘From all the criticism I have had, you pick the things you can take on board and you pick the things you can leave alone,’ says Mignolet.

So would he shake Grobbelaar’s hand if he seen him?

‘Yes, of course,’ comes the instant reply. ‘I appreciate what he has done for the club and he has been a legend all the way through his life. He has won major trophies for Liverpool. I will respect him for that. I respect every goalkeeper who has done the job as I know what the job is. ‘As a footballer the only thing you can do is show what you can do on the pitch and answers the questions on the field. I’ve never reacted when there has been criticism, and I’ll never do that in the future. You learn from that experience. You can become better for it.’

Mignolet, certainly, has become better in recent weeks and his input to the win against Tottenham on Tuesday was crucial, when he made a spectacular save to thwart Erik Lamela. If Liverpool are to get beyond the FA Cup fifth round this evening at Crystal Palace, his good form must continue. ‘The manager has shown his faith in me and confidence in me and he believes in me,’ says Mignolet. ‘I appreciate it. When you play for a big club, people will have their eye on you and to see when you concede a goal, could he have done better? That will always be the case and I accept that.’

Copyright - The Daily Mail
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