SIMON Mignolet will put his international ambitions to one side to establish himself as Sunderland’s number one.
Mignolet (pictured) is yet to make his bow for the Belgium national team despite being called up to the senior squad after graduating from the Under-21s.
The 22-year-old must fight off the likes of Anderlecht’s Silvio Proto, Bari’s Jean-Francois Gillet and Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Logan Bailly to become his country’s first-choice stopper.
But Mignolet knows he needs to play as much first-team football as possible for Sunderland before he can contemplate loftier ambitions.
Mignolet, who has made 16 appearances for the Black Cats since a £2million summer move from St Truiden, said: “I’ve been in the Belgium squad for the last couple of games.
“I was third choice, then second choice last time and we’ll see what happens in the future.
“I don’t think that’s the main thing now for me, though.
“The first thing I have to do is try to play for Sunderland as much as I can and then afterwards that will follow. You have to be playing first-team football for your club.
“If I can, I would like to be here for many years but that depends on my performances on the pitch.
“It’s the aim to get the number one jersey. If you’re playing in the team and you can establish yourself in the first team then other things will follow like the national team.”
Mignolet is expected to continue between the sticks at Arsenal on Saturday, with Craig Gordon still troubled by a niggling knee problem.
The Belgian returned to Sunderland’s starting 11 in the 2-0 defeat at Everton last weekend and was one of the few members of Steve Bruce’s side to do themselves justice.
“I wasn’t expecting to play as much football as I have,” he added.
“I didn’t come here to go straight in, but, after the first run of games I had, I knew I could do it and I knew I was capable of playing in the first team.
“In the beginning I was nervous, I didn’t know what to expect. But, after a couple of weeks and games, you know what you’re capable of and know what the Premier League is.
“I’ve tried to progress myself as much as I can and tried to learn from Craig and from the goalkeeping coach Nigel Spink.
“When you come back in the team it’s always a good feeling. On the other hand, the result was not so good at Everton and that’s the main thing in the end.
“My personal performance wasn’t too bad, so I was happy and we’ll see what happens for the next game.”