Sunderland keeper will maintain full focus

Simon Mignolet
Simon Mignolet
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SIMON Mignolet will not succumb to complacency despite landing the first punch in the battle to be Sunderland number one.

Belgian stopper Mignolet ended last season as Martin O’Neill’s first-choice stopper, but faced a renewed challenge from Keiren Westwood this summer.

Westwood impressed during pre-season and said he would have to consider his future on Wearside if he remained in the shadows after succeeding Shay Given as Republic of Ireland keeper.

But Mignolet has started both the opening two Premier League games, with Westwood reduced to a solitary outing in the Capital One Cup.

The former St Truiden man is typically level-headed over his place in the side though after the fight for a starting berth was reduced a one-on-one tussle following Craig Gordon’s departure during the summer.

Mignolet told the Echo: “I try to do my best week-in, week-out. The gaffer and the goalkeeping coach give me a lot of confidence too.

“I’ve learned a lot over the years and I’ve learned how to deal with pressure and competition.

“I want to play every game and the gaffer has chosen me. But that can change very quickly so I just have to keep working hard.

“Keiren’s a very good goalkeeper and he’s not number one for Ireland for nothing. We keep each other sharp in the training sessions and that’s the only way you can do it.

“In a Premier League squad, you always have to have two good goalkeepers. When Craig was here, he was also a good international goalie.

“It was a lot to have three international goalies, but it keeps you on your toes and can only keep you better. In the end, it’s the manager who chooses whose playing.”

Mignolet was an unused sub last night as Belgium make a successful start to their World Cup qualifying campaign, winning 2-0 against Wales in Cardiff.

Belgium host Croatia on Tuesday before Mignolet returns to the Stadium of Light alongside Sunderland’s 10 other players currently away on international duty.

Martin O’Neill will have just two days with his squad before Sunderland host Liverpool next Saturday.

But after two points on the road from the opening two games, Mignolet insists Sunderland are in confident mood, particularly after the international break allowed their five summer signings a further chance to settle on Wearside.

The 24-year-old added: “The players who we’ve just signed have had chance to get to know the place and get their fitness up. That’s very important.

“There are a lot of internationals in the squad, but when we come back, we can build on what we’ve done.

“We’ve got a game against Liverpool which will be a tough one, but we can definitely beat them at home.”