Thirty two years worth of football obsession inculcates in one a certain easy familiarity with the game and how it is spoken about. Of course, that knowledge may not be profound or particularly insightful, but over the course of more than three decades one at least becomes imbued with a deep-seated knowledge of that most ever-present of cultural phenomena -- the lazy football cliché.
You know the type of thing, gentle reader. Foreign strikers will always have a penchant for theatrics (we don't like to see that here); British players, whilst struggling to match the technical proficiency of the aforementioned overseas devils will never lack heart (he gives you 150%, that boy), and goalkeepers, regardless of their nationality, will always be unhinged loons (well, you have to be a bit mad to be a 'keeper, eh...eh?).
Liverpool's Belgian custodian, Simon Mignolet, is a one-man cliché-buster, however. The Sint-Truiden native is a remarkably grounded and phlegmatic individual. Although still a little too given to the hurried punt for this scribbler's coronary health, the twenty five year old has made a remarkably positive start for Liverpool and his off-field calm has been matched by a notable lack of crazy on the pitch, unless one counts some of the frankly ludicrous saves he's pulled-off of late.
Last weekend, despite conceding three goals he couldn't be faulted for, Mignolet was many people's man-of-the-match. The absurdly proficient shot-stopper made at least nine saves of real importance and looked to have acquired a little more solidity and presence under lofted balls and crosses. He had been all too familiar with a constant involvement in the action at his previous club, but often this campaign he will have been inactive for vast portions of the match. This has made some of his stops all the more impressive. The Belgian's concentration levels are excellent. Saturday's derby, however was a different story and Mignolet was needed far too much as Liverpool coughed-up possession and lost the midfield battle. The game left an indelible imprint on the young stopper's memory.
"So much happened in the derby," he admitted. "I'm pleased to have been part of one and I hope to be part of many more in the future. I'm not the kind of player to get carried away by the occasion anyway but it's always nice to have that first one behind you so you know what's coming in the future. It's not often as a keeper that you concede three goals and make nine saves in the same game. I am happy I helped the team out -- that's what I am there for. Hopefully, I can keep doing that."
Mignolet, who was speaking at an event he attended, along with Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling, in support of the Liverpool FC Foundation's Armed Forces programme, was quick to highlight the contribution of Daniel Sturridge and, like his manager, the goalkeeper now views the result at Goodison park as a point gained, rather than two lost.
"But more important than anything I did in the game was Daniel Sturridge's equaliser," he insisted. "If he hadn't scored that header, no-one would have been talking about the saves I made. Five minutes from the end I was worried that we would end up losing the game and all our efforts would have been for nothing. But we got a point and that has kept Everton away from us in the table. (How quickly he has come to understand the Scouse mindset!) We need to make sure we build on that against Hull. If we win on Sunday, then that result against Everton will look good for us."
Steve Bruce, whose famously rotund noggin Liverpool fans love to sing about, is very familiar to Mignolet from his Sunderland days and Liverpool's net-minder has a lot of respect for his former boss. Bruce, one of the plethora of Ferguson disciples in management, always seems to do well against Liverpool and his side will be solid, physical and not short of a threat of their own. The Redmen will need to be on their game, come Sunday, if they are to maintain their lofty league placement.
"I know Steve Bruce well and he will have Hull ready for it," Mignolet said. "They are a very solid team with a physical presence. They will be up for it against a team like Liverpool and it certainly won't be an easy game. We just have to look at ourselves and make sure we do things right. There are so many games to be played at this time of year and we need to make this busy period count. We are second in the league and we have to make sure we continue in the way we have started the season. We've got a big squad, so hopefully we'll be able to deal with any injuries or suspensions."
Many Liverpool fans will wince at that and think, "we've had quite enough injuries and suspensions already, thanks very much, Simon!" Those same fans, in their greedy way, will also want that "big squad" to grow further in January. Simon Mignolet is too unflustered to be perturbed by the usual fan-angst, however, and should he continue to produce the form he has shown thus far, Liverpool supporters will be very content indeed.