NIGEL Spink today hailed the mental toughness of Sunderland stopper Simon Mignolet – as he prepares to put his own steel to the test.
Mignolet helped Sunderland to their first clean sheet of the season in last weekend’s stalemate at Swansea City, just seven days after his blunder against Newcastle handed the Magpies the derby spoils.
After boss Steve Bruce decided to keep faith with the Belgian keeper, Mignolet showed few signs of nerves at the Liberty Stadium, making one telling save to deny Swansea striker Danny Graham.
Goalkeeping coach Spink, preparing to tackle the Three Peaks Challenge during this weekend’s international break, insists that knack of bouncing back from mistakes was what first attracted him to Mignolet after watching the 23-year-old at former club St Truiden.
Spink told the Echo: “We talked about his positional error against Newcastle in the week leading up to the Swansea game and Simon is a very intelligent lad who knows how to deal with things.
“I watched him five or six times in Belgium and he impressed me over there, but the only thing I had not seen him do was make a mistake.
“Eventually, he dropped a cross from a corner and conceded a goal, but then he went on to be the man of the match and that’s the big test for a goalkeeper.
“Obviously he has got a physical presence, but he is as brave a goalkeeper as I have ever seen.
“He has really impressed me with the way he has come on because it was a big test to throw him in last season when Craig (Gordon) was injured.
“The great thing for modern goalkeepers is you can sit down with them and look at video evidence and various camera angles to discuss things.
“I did not have anybody to go through things with when I was playing. I just had to work it out by watching Match of the Day.”
Spink is one of a 10-strong group of fund-raising hikers, known as the Crackpot Climbers, who will tackle the Three Peaks Challenge tomorrow.
Starting at 4am, the party aim to tackle the ascents, totalling more than 11,000 feet, of Ben Nevis, Scafell Peak and Snowdon – the highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales.
The group have 24 hours, including travelling time between mountains, to complete the challenge in aid of the Breast Cancer Campaign.
“It’s an unusual thing to do during an international break!” said Spink, now 53.
“It’s a hell of a challenge but we will complete it. The big question is how long it takes us.
“I have got into hiking over the last 18 months and have done quite a few climbs in the Lake District and Snowdonia.
“But I’ve still been doing extra fitness work and training with some of the guys at Sunderland, although I find the only way to really train is to actually do it.
“A couple of the party have been struck by breast cancer in their families so we thought it was a good cause to raise money for.
“I have to say the players and staff have been fantastic in so many ways, whether it has been through the medical department supplying plasters for blisters or the players contributing towards sponsorship.
“I’m looking to raise £5,000 or £6,000 from the football club itself which is fantastic.”
To make a donation to the Crackpot Climbers, visit http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/3Peaks-Sutton.