SIMON Mignolet admits he sympathises with goalkeeping rival Craig Gordon despite hindering the Scotland international’s chances of resurrecting his Sunderland career.
Mignolet returned to Sunderland’s starting XI at Fulham last weekend after his ever-present run in 2012 was ended against Bolton eight days earlier, as Gordon made his first competitive start in 14 months.
Black Cats boss Martin O’Neill last month informed Mignolet, Keiren Westwood and Gordon of his intention to give the latter a first-team chance, to make an assessment on whether to offer the Scotland cap a new contract.
But Gordon’s return to the side, after being plagued by knee problems, was short-lived, with Mignolet continuing as Sunderland’s first-choice stopper.
Gordon wasn’t even on the bench at Craven Cottage, with the £9million man – still a target for SPL champions Celtic – set to leave Sunderland for nothing when his contract expires next month.
Mignolet told the Echo: “The manager spoke to us a couple of weeks ago about it and explained what he wanted to do.
“All three goalkeepers knew what the situation was. That’s why Craig played against Bolton.
“Of course I sympathise with Craig. He worked really hard to gain his fitness after his knee injury.
“We’re quite good friends and speak to each other quite a lot.
“I know he was struggling with his knee for quite a bit. He’s very happy to be training again now and did well in the game as well.”
Mignolet justified O’Neill’s decision to recall him to the side after making a series of superb stops in the second half to keep Sunderland’s hopes alive.
But the Belgian international was not able to prevent Sunderland succumbing to defeat, which has left the Black Cats two points adrift of their top-10 goal heading into Sunday’s final game against title challengers Manchester United.
Mignolet insists Sunderland cannot get wrapped up in the focus on the title race, preferring instead to focus on bringing a conclusion to a seven-match winless run in the Premier League.
“Obviously it would be disappointing to miss out on the top 10 because we wanted to do better this season than last,” added the 24-year-old.
“But it’s more about winning a game again at the moment.
“It’s obviously a good game to play on the last day against Manchester United and everyone’s looking forward to it.
“There’s still lots to play for and hopefully we can finish off with three points at home.
“We’re all professionals so we can’t get wrapped up in the attention on the title.
“We have to look at ourselves and try to finish in the top half and try to win the game.”