In defence of Mignolet: only a fool would have turned down Liverpool

John McCormick:
John McCormick: keeping an eye on keepers

John McCormick‘s adopted home city, Liverpool, is now also Simon Mignolet’s. That won’t make John switch allegiance to the Scousers. But he understands why the Belgian was attracted by the lure of Anfield, faded as its glory may be …

I can see where people are coming from when they damn Ming with faint praise for his lack of loyalty to Sunderland and, yes, perhaps it’s time to move on. However, those of you who have looked at my picture at the top of this page will realise I’m reading a 50-year-old promotion season souvenir brochure, and expecting someone who’ll do that to move on quickly is expecting too much.

In my defence, I do think a just a quick trip in support of Ming is in order.

I’ll start by asking you to consider his progress at the club. He arrived some three years ago and impressed from the start, with fine displays against Man City and Arsenal.

That wasn’t enough to keep him in the team, however, and he was replaced by Craig Gordon who resumed the first team slot after recovery from a quite nasty injury that required surgery. Gordon was good enough to make the best Premiership save ever but another injury (caused, in my eyes, by some brutal treatment at the hands of one of the league’s more robust clubs) required more surgery, opening the door for Ming to step in once again.

And there Ming would probably have stayed had the goalkeeper’s curse struck twice more. The first time Ming himself was the victim. A collision with a hefty player (some others might describe it as another episode of brutal treatment) caused a facial injury and Kieren Westwood stepped up. Westwood was doing well but Ming’s return to fitness coincided with illness and the Irish keeper lost his place.

Birflatt Boy gets a weight off his mind
Birflatt Boy gets a weight off his mind
Birflatt Boy saw things differently: see also End the Mignolet love-in. He’s Liverpool’s now, our history

Since then Ming hasn’t looked back. He has been one of the stars in a season where little shone. His 11 clean sheets helped us to stay up and it’s worth noting that in one of them, against our arch rivals he had to risk his face again and then watch as the opposing keeper converted an innocuous fall into a season-ending injury.

In three short seasons Ming has seen a lot of keepers lose their positions. He has also seen the backs of two managers, he was now on his third, with each manager having his own strategies and his own preferred players. Good form has ensured Ming’s place but, given the injuries he’s seen and the comings and goings within the club even he couldn’t consider his future secure.

And now Liverpool have come calling.

They aren’t the club they were, or even the club their fans think they are, but they probably will be a better prospect than us for the next couple of seasons. If they also threw a better wage packet into the deal then so much the better for Ming. Given his circumstances he would have been a fool to turn them down, and he’s no fool.

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13 thoughts on “In defence of Mignolet: only a fool would have turned down Liverpool”

  1. ” But he’s doing a job of work for which he is handsomely rewarded and like any other employee why should we chastise him for seeking to better himself? \

    Well that’s fair enough. I’m not chastising him at all in fact. Those who I am chastising are the people who come out with all this nonsense about how they wish him well, hope it’s a good move for him, blah, blah, blah. If he’s a canny plumber and used to do your bathroom etc and he has moved on to bigger and better things then that’s fair enough, so lets not treat him any different to that.

    I’m not slagging the geezer at all Malcolm. I just don’t see the reason to be sentimental about Mig or his situation. Those who wish to be sentimental always point to the bloke just doing a job of work etc, but you can’t have it both ways. If that is all that playing for us means so little to the fellah, then I can live with that. It’s the response of the supporters that grates with me.

  2. He played for us for three years. He took off at the first opportunity. Its not like he spent his career with us, or really gave a tinker’s cuss about Sunderland. Mignolet didn’t care, so why should we.

    I hope he sinks to complete anonymity within the next 12 months. Who cares? We live in a world which is driven by the politics of insincerity. When we Liverpool next season let’s hope there’s a beachball and a couple of howlers involved.

    H’way Westwood me bonny laaaaad!

    • Tim says “He played for us for three years. He took off at the first opportunity. Its not like he spent his career with us, or really gave a tinker’s cuss about Sunderland. Mignolet didn’t care, so why should we.”

      I seem to remember (though I may be making this up) a season or two back there was talk of him going and he said that his girlfriend was doing a course at a local college so he wasn’t interested in a move at the time. But he’s doing a job of work for which he is handsomely rewarded and like any other employee why should we chastise him for seeking to better himself? Even if we don’t agree that he is actually going to improve his chances of becoming Belgium’s first choice or even get regular football at Liverpool, we don’t know what his salary is.

      If you were on £20,000 a year and were offered the chance to do exactly the same job for £30,000 a year would you turn it down?

      What about all the players we bring in through the transfer system? Mignolet wasn’t a product of the Sunderland Academy, he wasn’t born inthe area and he never promised his life to SAFC. Neither was Westwood. He was a full international when he signed for us from Coventry. If you want to be consistent Tim then slag him off on behalf of the Coventry fans because he showed no loyalty when moving to a bigger club for better wages.

      I wish Westwood well as I do everyone who plays in a Sunderland shirt. I feel he’s had a raw deal so far but Mig is a professional and always gave 100% for us which is why I still wish him well.

      Westwood will do a job and hopefully the money the club got for Mig will be used wisely to strengthen the many areas of the side that needed strengthening.

      Do you really think the side would be better keeping him on the books whilst being unable to bring in some decent centre backs, full backs, midfield players, strikers because the whole team needs a re-vamp. It would make no sense at all to keep a top quality player, for whom we have a top quality replacement, whilst filling the rest of the team with mediocre players for whom we have even more mediocre back ups.

      Face up to facts, Mig might think he is improving his lot on Merseyside but it’s done the club no harm either.

  3. Maybe three managers in four seasons explains why Mignolet left.
    Maybe he was not convinced by Di Canio and the sweeping changes that were in the offing.
    Maybe he just fancied a change of scenery.
    Maybe he fancied a night or two in The Slopey Floor Pub near Central Station aka as The Globe.
    Maybe he is a fan of Brookside – The Early Years and wants to hang out in the places Bobby Grant, Harry Cross and Jimmy Corkill frequented.
    Bring me my tablets, nurse.

  4. I agree with Adam from Liverpool. Whilst I didn’t want to sell him, I can understand why we thought the money too good to refuse. But I don’t get why Mig was apparently so quick to run off.

    IMO goalkeepers are different from other players, in that they don’t necessarily improve their game by moving to a better club. Jordan Henderson will improve by playing alongside the likes of Gerrard every week (and if he doesn’t actually improve he will at least be made to look good). A striker will get a better return by playing with good players who will give him a top-class service etc etc. But how does a goalkeeper improve his game by playing in a better side?

    A strong defence might make his job easier, but that says nothing about him. Playing for Sunderland every week and making great saves every game has already been enough to get Mig all the praise and respect which has come his way. If that’s not enough to get him into the Belgian team then that’s the Belgian manager’s problem. If going to Liverpool is – on its own – enough to make the difference, then the Belgian manager is an idiot.

    Darren Bent left Sunderland to boost his England chances, and enthused in the media about playing for Villa alongside Downing and Ashley Young – both sold shortly afterwards. Look at him now, compared to the hero/legend he was becoming at Sunderland. As they say, you need to be careful what you wish for – although I’m sure his money is keeping him happy.

    Anyway, Mig’s gone now and he deserves no loyalty or sympathy from me. I actually hope he does badly, “pour encourager les autres”, as M.Salut miight say.

  5. Mignolet was superb for us last season, but his rival for the Belgium no. 1 spot,Thibaut Courtois is excellent also and I honestly can’t see Mig being first choice, Liverpool or not.

  6. LFC will improve under their manager and will challenge for European football this season. Reina will return to Spain. Mig will deffo be paid more at LFC as Short is actively reducing the wage bill hence the Bosmans who not only have no initial fee but will regard our wages as a step up. Westwood will step up and do a good job. £9 million erases the memory of the silly money we paid for Gordon…..not as silly as the amount LFC paid for Carroll mind you. Arguably the silliest fee ever paid……ever! It was a funny season but we could easily have ended 10th and maybe the commentary would be less gloomy. Who knows? Anyway we can’t complain about the irrationality of the decision as that is the PDC way. From chaos comes order…….hopefully

  7. Since the article is attracting LFC as well as SAFC interest, please be patient if your comment is held briefly for moderation. It happens if your computer is not recognised by the anti-spam filters. As usual, and subject only the normal rules of decency and legality, comments are welcome from any source.

  8. Birflatt Boy made the valid point that Liverpool secured our best player for £9m.

    I totally agree with him that we got stuffed regardless of the waffle about “add-ons” to make the deal more palatable.

    In real terms he was worth far more than that to SAFC both as an “asset” and being retained in the team. We have lost out badly!

    I think he has been badly advised.

    If he wants to shine before the World Cup its better to play in a team with a shoddy defence where he is called upon more often!!

    It’s in an agents interest to move his players about as much as he can. That’s where the money is to be made, just look at the Tevez saga from West Ham onwards.

    I am sure the agent made a tidy sum from this deal.

    Watch out Liverpool when “The Emperor” starts being “linked” with Real Madrid or Barcelona.

    • In terms of worth to SAFC I should have mentioned the 11-12 points Mignolet secured by his superb performances last season which kept us up..

      In Premier League prize money terms 12 additional points would be worth anything from £3m – £5m per season to the club, if SAFC were in mid table. I am sure this was factored into the negotiations!!!

      Should have kept him even if his contract had 2 seasons to run down; but of course football is all about risk management!!

  9. I’m quite curious as to what makes up the mentality of a keeper. I’m a Liverpool fan and of course happy enough to see Mignolet make this move. If Reina is not sold then Liverpool are in an enviable position of having two top class international stoppers fighting for a spot. But what does Mignolet really get from the move? What is it about playing for Sunderland that isn’t quite good enough? Liverpool have no european football, only ambitions of getting back there in the future. Perhaps wages come into it, but Liverpool have a new approach under new owners that will never see anyone be grossly well paid. There is a lustre about the club, a good fan base, maybe some aspect of glory … but it’s all history and tradition. Liverpool are not currently a super-power in football and have some work to do if they are to regain that kind of reputation.

    So ultimately, what does Mignolet get? He may have to compete for the spot with Pepe Reina, not entirely a great position to put yourself in. He may find himself behind a better quality of defence, but not by much. Brendan Rodgers is not a defensive minded manager and Liverpool were leaking goals early last season. Even still, is it in a keeper’s best interests during a world cup year to not be the star of your defensive unit? Isn’t it better to be the keeper having to make tons of quality saves, showing your quality and working hard?

    What does he really get from this move? Sunderland are still in the top flight, the level of competition is still there. You still play against the same teams … I honestly can’t say I get it. I think highly of my football club but I can be honest enough to say that right now we’re no great shakes. Reputation and history may be our most prized assets. Does that really factor into the decision making process of a potential transfer target?

  10. John, I would not disagree with any of your sentiment for Mig and as you quite rightly point out, more money and (currently) a bigger club.

    But, he is not guaranteed first team football so as a strategy for obtaining the Belgian No.1 shirt in time for Brazil it is quesationable that was his motivation.

    He is by no means the finnished product, but then goalkeepers rarely are at his age, but staying with a club that more or less guaranteed you first team football, to say nothing of the adulation of the fans must be worth something.

    What irks me the most with it was the unseemly quickness of his decision to go to the first club that came calling and at a time where SAFC are undergoing major exciting and hopefully successful changes in structure and philosophy. I would have thought that sticking with us, playing regularly and getting the new media exposure that the club is currently experiencing and will in to the new season (although I suspect the interest is only there for the medias hope that we fail spectacularly) would have served him best.

    I would not wish him the worst, he has made his choice or taken the advice of the usual duplicitous agent, but I won’t be shedding any tears should we hopefully put a cricket score past him twice next season.

  11. It is also a World Cup selection year, And LFC give him more exposure. Best of luck to him, may he never face a beachball.

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