Liverpool legend Ray Clemence has praised the recent form of Simon Mignolet and said that the Belgian's turn-around "hasn't surprised him."
In the opening months of the season, Mignolet was far from his best and was at fault for a large proportions of goals. After a string of poor efforts, he was dropped for Liverpool's 3-0 defeat to Manchester United on December 14 at Old Trafford, replaced by Brad Jones.
Jones maintained his place in the Reds' net until Boxing Day against Burnley, when the Australian was forced off with injury and replaced by Mignolet. The former Sunderland man has since kept his place in Brendan Rodgers' line-up and recorded eight clean sheets and put in a number of impressive performances.
The £9 million shot-stopper seems to have turned a new leaf at Anfield and Clemence - who made 480 appearances for Liverpool - has always felt that Mignolet would find top-form.
“Simon deserves great credit for how he has turned things around,” Clemence told the Liverpool Echo.
“He’s making vital saves and helping his team win matches.
“It just shows what a difference confidence makes. He had a tough time earlier in the season.
“After being left out he had the bonus of coming back into the team earlier than he would have expected after Brad Jones got injured. Since returning to the team he has got better and better.
“He hasn’t surprised me because I knew he had it in him. He had an exceptional season for Sunderland before Liverpool bought him.
"He hasn’t surprised me because I knew he had it in him. He had an exceptional season for Sunderland before Liverpool bought him"
“Earlier this season he endured a spell where things weren’t going right for him but
he went away and worked on a few things. There are still a few areas I’m sure he’d like to improve on further but he’s having an excellent time of it and long may it continue.
“You can think too much about what you’re doing when things are going wrong for you. Negative thoughts lead to negative actions. Relaxing and playing on instinct always helps.
“I don’t think Simon’s character was ever in doubt. I remember reading an interview with him a couple of months ago when people were asking serious questions about
"He was asked if he felt he had to prove himself and his response was ‘I’ve got nothing to prove’. He’s shown great character to come back the way he has."
High Class Performances
Prior to the New Year there was plenty of speculation that Mignolet would leave Liverpool in the January transfer window. The 26-year-old's poor performances were firmly still in the mind of Rodgers and Reds fans and if Liverpool were to improve it would be without Mignolet in between the sticks.
However, he has responded strongly. Mignolet has looked confident in all of his decision making since being reinstated to the Liverpool team - whereas once he would hesitate, he now instantly identifies his objective and positively reacts to the challenge in-front of him.
In Liverpool's 2-0 victory against Southampton last weekend, the number 22 made several high-class saves to keep his side in the game. He smartly denied Eljero Elia moments after Philippe Coutinho had given the Reds the lead and then again saved from Elia later in the first-half when he quickly got off his line to deny the Dutchman with his chest.
One factor that has improved Mignolet's performances is the solid defence playing ahead of him. At the beginning of the season, Rodgers persisted with a back-four that saw the Merseyside outfit let in far too many goals.
The Northern Irishman changed his tactics in December and reverted to playing three centre-backs and soon the goals being conceded soon dried up. Emre Can, Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho have occupied those three positions for the most part and all three formed a fantastic understanding with one-another and Mignolet.
Do YOU want to write for GiveMeSport? Get started today by signing-up and submitting an article HERE: https://www.givemesport.com/writeforgms